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Title: A Texas Blue Bonnet
       Caroline Emilia Jacobs

Author: Caroline Emilia Jacobs

Illustrator: John Goss

Release Date: October 2, 2016 [EBook #53192]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by Stephen Hutcheson, Dave Morgan and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at






Illustrated by



Copyright, 1910
By The Page Company

All rights reserved

Made in U.S.A.

Twentieth Impression, November, 1925

Twenty-first Impression, September, 1926

Twenty-second Impression, October, 1927

Twenty-third Impression, June, 1928

Twenty-fourth Impression, March, 1930

Twenty-fifth Impression, August, 1933

Twenty-sixth Impression, December, 1935

Twenty-Seventh Impression, March, 1938



I. Blue Bonnet 1
II. Elizabeth 16
III. To Meet Miss Elizabeth Ashe 34
IV. School 51
V. An Invitation 68
VI. Tea-party Number Two 84
VII. The Climax 100
VIII. Mr. Hunt 122
IX. Victor 140
X. Uncle Cliff 161
XI. My Lady Bountiful 184
XII. Señorita 208
XIII. Christmas Boxes and Other Matters 227
XIV. Christmas 248
XV. A Dare 268
XVI. Ladies’ Day 288
XVII. A Class Affair 312
XVIII. Coventry 333
XIX. The Boston Relatives 351
XX. Concerning the Sargent 374
XXI. The End of the Term 395


Blue Bonnet Frontispiece
“‘Grandmother,’ she cried, ‘I’ve got a dog’” 32
“‘I reckon you think I’m a coward. Maybe you won’t want to be friends any more’” 106
“‘Isn’t it the nicest Christmas!’ Blue Bonnet cried, her lap full of treasures” 254
“‘Ladies’ Day at the Trent Rink’ proved a thorough success” 295
“‘But I thought,’ she said, ‘that it was a girl’s privilege to change her mind?’” 383


A Texas Blue Bonnet


Blue Bonnet came up the steps of the long, low ranch house, and threw herself listlessly back in one of the deep veranda chairs.

“Tired, Honey?” Mr. Ashe asked, laying down his paper.

“Yes, Uncle Cliff. I—hate walking!”

“Then why not ride?”

Blue Bonnet was smoothing the ears of Don, the big collie who had followed her up on to the veranda, and now stood resting his fine head on her knee. “I—didn’t want to,” she answered, slowly, without looking up.

“See here, Honey,” said Mr. Ashe, leaning toward her, a note of inquiry in his deep, pleasant voice; “come to think of it, you haven’t been riding lately.”

“No, Uncle Cliff.” Blue Bonnet’s eyes were turned now out over the wide stretch of prairie before the house.

“Any reason, Honey?”

2 The girl hesitated. “Yes, Uncle Cliff.”

“Don’t you want to tell me it, Blue Bonnet?”

“No,” Blue Bonnet answered, slowly, “I don’t want to tell it to you. I—it’s because I’m—afraid.”

Afraid! Blue Bonnet! That’s an odd word for an Ashe to use!”

“I know, Uncle Cliff; I reckon I’m not an Ashe—clear through.” Blue Bonnet rose hurriedly and ran down the steps. Around the house she went, and in through the back way to her own room. There she brushed the hot tears from her eyes with an impatient movement. “Oh, it is true,” she said to herself, “and I can’t help it. Oh, if I could only go away—I hate it here! Hate it! Hate it!”

Later, swinging in the hammock on the back veranda, she looked up suddenly as her uncle came to sit on the railing beside her. Something in his face and manner made her wonder.

“Blue Bonnet,” he said, abruptly, “we might as well have it out—right here and now—it’ll be the best thing for us both.”

Blue Bonnet sat up, pushing back her soft, thick hair. “Have it out?” she repeated.

“Blue Bonnet,” he answered, bending nearer, “suppose you tell me just what it is you would like to do? It wouldn’t take much insight to see that you aren’t very happy nowadays; and—well, I3 reckon your father wouldn’t want things going on as they’ve been—lately.”

The girl’s face changed swiftly. “Oh, I have been horrid, Uncle Cliff! But I—oh, I do so—hate it—here!”

“Hate it here! Hate the Blue Bonnet Ranch—the finest bit of country in the whole state of Texas!”

“I—hate the whole state of Texas!”

“Blue Bonnet!”

“I do. I want to go East to live. I—my mother was an Easterner. I want to live her life.”

“But, Honey, your mother chose to come West. Why, child,”—there was a quick note of triumph in the man’s voice—“it was your mother who named you Blue Bonnet.”

“I wish she hadn’t. It’s a—ridiculous sort of name—I would like to have been called Elizabeth—it is my name, too.”

“Elizabeth?” Mr. Ashe repeated. “It doesn’t seem to suit you nearly as well, Honey. All the same, if you like it. But Blue—Elizabeth, you know that this is your ranch, and that your father wanted you brought up to know all about it, so as to be able to manage things for yourself a bit—at a pinch.”

“I shall sell—as soon as I come of age.”

Mr. Ashe rose. “I reckon we’d best not talk any more now.”

4 “Uncle Clifford.” Blue Bonnet looked up. “Uncle Clifford, please don’t think it’s just—temper. I mean it, truly—I sha’n’t ever make a Westerner. I’m sorry—on your account. Still, it’s true—I hate it all—now,—everything the life out here stands for—and I want to go East. I—I don’t see why I shouldn’t choose my own life—for myself.”

Her uncle looked down into the upturned, eager face. “You seem to have gone over this pretty thoroughly in your own mind, Bl—Elizabeth.”

“I have, Uncle Cliff.”

“Well, you and I’ll talk things over another time; I’ve some business to see to now. I suppose things’ll have to go on, even if you do intend to sell—in six years.”

“I wish you’d try to see my side of it, Uncle Cliff.”

“I’m going to—after a while. Just now, I can’t get beyond the fact that you hate the Blue Bonnet Ranch. I hope your father doesn’t know it!” And Mr. Ashe turned away.

Below the house, leaning against the low fence enclosing the oblong piece of ground called “the garden,” Mr. Ashe found Uncle Joe Terry, ranch foreman, and his chief adviser in the difficult task of bringing up his orphan niece.

Uncle Joe was smoking placidly, his eyes on the wild riot of color which was one of the principal5 characteristics of Blue Bonnet’s garden. “Tell you what,” he said, as Mr. Ashe came up, “this here place needs weeding. Blue Bonnet ain’t been keeping an eye on Miguel lately.”

Blue Bonnet’s uncle stood a moment looking down at the neglected garden. “Yes,” he said, “and it’s not only the garden, Joe, that’s been left to itself lately.”

“She ain’t been out on Firefly this two weeks,” Uncle Joe commented. “What’s wrong, Cliff?”

“She wants to go East.”

“So that’s it? Well, I reckon it’s natural—wants to run with the other young folks, I suppose?”

“But—Joe, she says she hates—the ranch.”

Uncle Joe puffed at his pipe thoughtfully. “Hm—so she says that? She always was an outspoken little piece, Cliff.”

“She says, too, that she means to sell.”

“My lady must be a bit excited. Well, it won’t be to-morrow, Cliff, and a whole lot of things can happen in six years. You just give my lady her head; she’s looking to be crossed, and she’s all braced up to pull the other way. All you want to do is to go with her a bit.”

“It’s a pretty big proposition—sending her East,” Mr. Ashe said. “Oh, she’ll pick up a lot of tomfool notions, most likely,” Uncle Joe admitted, “and a whole heap of others that’ll come in6 mighty handy one of these days. You just send her ’long back to those folks of her mother’s and quit worrying.”

That night Mr. Ashe wrote a letter to Blue Bonnet’s grandmother. He said nothing to Blue Bonnet herself about it, however. Possibly Mrs. Clyde would not care to assume the charge of her granddaughter. In any case, it would be well to have the matter settled before mentioning it.

Then one evening, not a fortnight later, Uncle Joe, coming home from the little post-office town, twenty miles away, tossed him several letters.

“Postmarked Woodford,” the older man said. “Looks like sentence was about to be pronounced.”

Five minutes more and Mr. Ashe knew how hard he had been hoping against hope these last two weeks.

“Well?” Uncle Joe asked; and the other looked up to find him still sitting motionless in his saddle.

“They want her to come as soon as possible, so that she may be ready to start school at the beginning of the fall term.”

“Pretty good school back there?”

“Said to be—it’s the one her mother went to.”

“I reckon they’re tickled to death to have her come?”

“They seem pleased.”

“Blue Bonnet’s out in the garden,” Uncle Joe suggested.

7 Blue Bonnet was gathering nasturtiums when her uncle called to her from the gate at the upper end of the garden. He had two letters in his hand, and, as she reached him, he held them out. “They came to-night,” he explained. “They are in answer to one I wrote a short time ago.”

Blue Bonnet took them wonderingly, and, sitting on the ground, the great bunch of gay-colored nasturtiums beside her, she opened one of them. As it happened, it was the one from her Aunt Lucinda—a short letter, perfectly kind and sincere, but very formal. On the whole, a rather depressing letter, in spite of the answer it brought to her great desire.

Blue Bonnet refolded it rather soberly. “I wish,” she said, studying the firm, upright handwriting, “that I hadn’t read this one first. Grandmother’s must be different.”

It certainly was. A letter overflowing with the joy the writer felt over the prospect of Blue Bonnet’s coming. Through its magic the girl was carried far away from the little garden, from all the old familiar scenes. Dimly remembered stories her mother used to tell her of the big white house standing amidst its tall trees came back to her, and the vague hopes and dreams that had been filling her thoughts for weeks past began to take definite form.

And she was going there—back to her mother’s old home. She was to have the very room that had8 been her mother’s,—Grandmother had said so. It seemed too good to be true. She was glad, now, she had kept this letter to the last. And she would be going soon;—that thought, with its accompanying one of hurry and preparation, brought her back to the present.

Picking up the letters, she ran up to the house. On the back steps she found Uncle Joe.

“Seems like you was in a hurry,” he said.

Blue Bonnet laughed, looking at him with shining eyes. “I’m going East!”

“To-night?” he questioned.

“No, not to-night; but very soon, I think.”

Uncle Joe seemed neither surprised, nor impressed. “Humph,” he grunted, knocking the ashes from his pipe. “Well, I reckon it’s all right back East—for them that like it.”

His reception of her news rather daunted Blue Bonnet, and she went at a slower pace through the wide center hall to the front veranda, where her uncle sat.

“Uncle Cliff,” she asked, giving him the letters, “you mean—I’m to go?”

Mr. Ashe shifted the letters from one hand to the other for a moment, without speaking; then he said gravely, “Yes, you’re to go, Elizabeth. When a girl hates the ranch, hates everything the life here stands for, and is afraid to ride, I don’t see that there’s anything left to do—but send her East.”

9 Blue Bonnet dropped down on the upper step, the quick color flooding her face. To go East was one thing—but to be sent! She sat very still for a few moments, looking out over the broad, level prairie.

Her uncle was the first to speak.

“I suppose you’d best get started pretty soon; there’ll be some fixing up to do after you get there.”

“Am I going alone?” Blue Bonnet asked.

“I don’t see how I can leave home at present,” her uncle answered. “Perhaps I’ll hear of some one going East who’ll be willing to look after you.”

“It’ll seem funny to go to school with other girls,” Blue Bonnet said. “I wonder how I’ll like going to school.”

“I reckon you’ll be learning a good many lessons of various kinds, Honey.” Mr. Ashe spoke a little wistfully. It was hard to realize that Blue Bonnet was going away.

The girl looked up soberly; his words had somehow reminded her of Aunt Lucinda’s letter. A sudden dread of the writer of it seized her. “Uncle Cliff,” she asked, “what are they like—Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda?”

“Suppose you wait and find out for yourself, Honey.”

“I wish Aunt Lucinda hadn’t been so much older than Mamma. Uncle Cliff, have you ever been in Woodford?”

10 “No, Honey; it’s a right pretty place, I reckon. You’ll have to write and tell me all about it.”

“And you’ll answer, won’t you? You’ll write very often?”

“Of course, Honey; but I don’t know what I’ll find to tell you—you won’t care about ranch talk.”

“But you’ll write? You’ve promised—and you’ve never broken a promise to me,” Blue Bonnet said.

And that night, lying awake and thinking of the new life to come, Blue Bonnet found the thought of those promised letters strangely comforting. “It—it can’t seem so far then,” she told herself.

“Hurry, Benita!” Blue Bonnet urged, “I hear Uncle Joe coming.”

The old woman gave a finishing touch to the waist she was laying in place in the big trunk standing in the center of Blue Bonnet’s room. “Si, Señorita,” she said, “all is ready.”

She lifted the tray in place and closed down the lid, passing a hand admiringly over the surface of the trunk. “Señorita has the trunk of the Señora, is it not?”

“Yes,” Blue Bonnet answered gravely.

“I remember, as it were but yesterday, the coming of the Señora,” Benita said, “and the Señor calling ‘Benita! Oh, Benita! Here is your new mistress!’ She was but the young thing—that11 little Señora—not much older than you are now, Señorita mia, and with the face all bright and the eyes so expressive—like yours.”

“Eighteen,” Blue Bonnet said, thoughtfully, “and I’m fifteen.”

“It was I who unpacked the trunk—this and others, for there were many—and now I am packing it again for the going of the Señorita.” Benita’s voice was trembling. “And the Señorita goes to the home of her mother’s mother. Much would the Señora tell me of the home she had left, in those first days.”

Blue Bonnet came to put an arm about the old woman, who, since her mother’s death ten years before, had mothered and looked after her to the best of her ability. “I wish you were going too, Benita,” she said.

“Si, Señorita mia, it is the journey too long for old Benita.”

“All the way from Texas to Massachusetts,” Blue Bonnet said. “I wonder who’ll look after me and do everything for me there, Benita.”

“That thought troubles me much, also, Señorita.”

“Oh, I’ll get along somehow,” Blue Bonnet laughed. She turned as Uncle Joe came down the hall, a coil of rope over his shoulder.

“Ready!” she called.

“This looks like business, for sure,” Uncle Joe12 said, slipping an end of the rope under Blue Bonnet’s trunk.

She nodded rather soberly. She had worn a sober face a good deal of the time during the days of preparation. “Uncle Joe,”—she looked up a little wistfully into the kind, weather-beaten face,—“you—you’ll look after Uncle Cliff, won’t you?”

“Sure I will, Blue Bonnet, same’s if he was an infant in arms.”

“And you’ll write to me, too, sometimes—and tell me all about—everything?”

“I ain’t much on letter-writing,” Uncle Joe answered, “but I’ll make a try at it now and then; and you’re going to be so busy doing the things you’re wanting to do that you won’t have much time to be pestered with the goings-on out here.”

“Please, Uncle Joe, you know that isn’t so.”

“Ain’t it? There now, that’s roped to stay. Seems kind of hard to realize that come another twenty-four hours and the Blue Bonnet Ranch’ll be without its best and prettiest Blue Bonnet. Eh, Benita?”

Benita shook her gray head sadly. “The sunshine goes with the going of the Señorita,” she said.

“I reckon you’ll take to the doings back there all right, Blue Bonnet,” Uncle Joe began. “There! I’m always forgetting—just as if your uncle hadn’t13 explained how, seeing as everything was to be new, you wasn’t to be Blue Bonnet any more, but Elizabeth. It’s a fine name, Elizabeth, and it’s going to suit back East all right; but, if you was staying on here, I’m thinking you’d have to go on being Blue Bonnet. I doubt if the boys here on the ranch would stand for anything else—they’re sort of kicking now over your going.”

“Yes,” Blue Bonnet said, “I’ve had to say such a lot of good-byes—I don’t see why they care so much.” And, after Uncle Joe had carried out the trunk, and Benita had gone, she sat quite still on the foot of her bed beside her half-packed hand-bag, trying to realize that in another twenty-four hours she would be travelling further and further from the Blue Bonnet Ranch.

She and her uncle were to leave early the next morning, taking the long drive to the nearest railway station in the cool of the day. Mr. Ashe was to go the first hundred miles with her, and from there on she would be in charge of a friend of his who was going East.

And she had never been fifty miles on the railway in her life! Blue Bonnet’s eyes brightened. She drew a quick breath of pleasure. To be fifteen, and setting out to the land of one’s heart’s desire! All the doubts, the regrets, the half-vague fears of the past ten days vanished.

Hearing her uncle’s step on the veranda, she went14 out to meet him. He was looking down at the trunk; something of the same expression in his eyes that had been in old Benita’s.

“Don’t you wish you were going, too?” the girl asked gaily.

“Yes, Honey.”

“Isn’t it a big trunk and doesn’t it look delightfully travellingified?”

“Delightfully what?”

Blue Bonnet laughed. Reaching up, she touched the little knot of dark blue, pea-like blossoms in her uncle’s buttonhole. “You won’t forget me while you have your blue bonnets,” she said.

“I reckon I won’t forget you, Honey.”

They went in to supper, Blue Bonnet talking and laughing excitedly; but afterwards, when she and her uncle went out to the front veranda as usual, her mood changed suddenly. It was so still, so peaceful, out there—and yet, already, so strangely alien.

For a few moments she walked up and down restlessly, followed closely by Don. Don scented the coming change; he thoroughly disapproved of that roped trunk on the back veranda.

“Uncle Cliff—” Blue Bonnet came at last to sit on the arm of her uncle’s chair, letting her head rest on his shoulder. Something had got to be put into words, which she had been trying to say in various other ways for a good many days past.15 “Uncle Cliff, I—truly—I am sorry—that I spoke the way I did—that night.”

Mr. Ashe stroked the brown head gently. “That’s all right, Honey. And remember, Honey, if things go wrong, if you’re disappointed, or—anything like that, you’ve only to send word. This is your home,—and will be—for six years. And, Honey, you won’t forget,—what your father said,—that you were to try to live as he had taught you to ride—straight and true.”



Blue Bonnet gathered up her belongings; ten minutes more and they would be in, the porter had told her.

Mr. Garner, her uncle’s friend, had brought her as far as New York; from there on she had travelled alone. Now that she was so near her journey’s end she almost wished she were not.

Aunt Lucinda was to meet her in Boston. Blue Bonnet gave her hair a smoothing touch or two and pulled on her gloves; then the porter came to brush her off, smiling sympathetically over her evident nervousness, and assuring her that Boston was “a right fine place.”

Very crowded, very confusing she thought it, during those first few moments. Inside the car, people were beginning to gather up bundles and wraps; outside, as the train drew into the great depot, pandemonium seemed the order of the day. Blue Bonnet felt a sudden, overwhelming desire to break away; to get somewhere—anywhere, where it was quiet.

And then she saw Aunt Lucinda coming towards17 her. She knew instinctively that it was Aunt Lucinda the moment she caught sight of the tall, well-dressed woman threading her way down the crowded aisle.

“This is Elizabeth?” she said, stopping before Blue Bonnet.

The girl answered nervously that she supposed so. “You see,” she added, quickly, flushing over the ridiculousness of her reply, “I’m not used to being called anything but Blue Bonnet.”

“Elizabeth, or Blue Bonnet, we are very glad you have come to us, my dear,” Miss Clyde answered, kissing her; “it must have seemed a long way.”

“Yes, Aunt Lucinda,” Blue Bonnet said. At that moment Texas seemed a very, very long way off, indeed. She followed her aunt down the aisle and out on to the busy platform, feeling curiously small and lonely.

During the short ride on the local train Blue Bonnet was very silent, but Miss Clyde thought her interested in the view from the car window and did not try to make conversation.

She was rather glad of the opportunity to study the slender, bright-faced girl opposite.

“How near everything is to everything else, Aunt Lucinda,” Blue Bonnet said at last.

Miss Clyde smiled. “We don’t run much to space here, Elizabeth. There, that is our last stop18 before Woodford. You will be glad to have your long journey really over.”

At Woodford the old family carriage was waiting. Denham, the coachman, smiled welcomingly at Blue Bonnet. “’Deed and I’m glad to see Miss Elizabeth’s girl,” he said.

Blue Bonnet smiled back in friendly fashion. “Did he know Mamma, Aunt Lucinda?” she asked, wonderingly.

“Denham has been with us for more than twenty years, Elizabeth,” Miss Clyde answered.

There were not many passengers for the sleepy little station. Blue Bonnet felt herself the object of interest for the group of loungers gathered about the platform.

To the girl the old tree-shaded village, with its air of quiet content, its one wide principal street, with pleasant by-ways straggling off at irregular intervals from it, was very attractive, and very interesting as well, when contrasted with the little bare prairie town at home. She quite enjoyed the slow, leisurely drive in the comfortable old carry-all; she could not imagine any one dashing up that sober quiet street. And when, at last, they turned into a broad, well-kept drive, and she caught sight, across the smooth stretch of green lawn, of the big white house, she drew a quick breath of content; it was all in such perfect keeping.

Miss Clyde saw the look in Blue Bonnet’s eyes19 and an answering smile showed in her own. “Your mother was very fond of the old place, Elizabeth,” she said; “we are very glad to have her daughter come home to it.”

On the steps Mrs. Clyde was waiting, and to her Blue Bonnet’s heart went out instantly.

“Ah, but you are like your mother, my dear!” Mrs. Clyde cried, holding the girl close. “It is very good of your uncle to spare you to us. I could hardly believe the good news when it came. But you are tired, dear; you shall go to your room at once.”

“I am tired,” Blue Bonnet said; she wondered why it was she wanted to cry. And why in this first moment of coming—coming home, Aunt Lucinda had called it—her thoughts kept going back to the home she had left.

She went with her aunt up the broad oak stairway and along the wide upper hall to a room at the lower end,—a big pleasant room,—the one that had been her mother’s. It was, indeed, a charming room, with its wide, cushioned window-seats, its deep, open fireplace, its pretty light furniture and delicate draperies. The windows looked off into orchard and garden, and, when Aunt Lucinda had gone downstairs again, Blue Bonnet went to kneel before the one overlooking the latter.

In a moment she had forgotten how tired and dusty she was; forgotten how far she had journeyed20 since the morning she said good-bye to Uncle Joe and old Benita and Don; had forgotten everything but the garden lying, half in shade, half in sunshine, below,—the big, rambling, old-fashioned garden, of which the one at home was a faint reproduction.

Beyond the garden was a tall row of trees, growing so closely together as to form a thick screen. Blue Bonnet wondered what was on the other side of that row? Did her grandmother’s land end on this side? Could there be neighbors so near?

She wondered a good deal about it as she freshened herself up for supper. Her trunk had not come yet, but she had a fresh white waist in her suit-case. Presently she came slowly along the hall and downstairs to where Mrs. Clyde was sitting in the broad entrance hall.

“It is very good to see a young person coming down those stairs again,” Mrs. Clyde said; “you come much more slowly than your mother used to, dear.”

Blue Bonnet smiled. “It seems odd to be going up and coming down stairs at all. At home it is all on one floor.” She went to stand by the open front door. Across the lawn and the broad road beyond, she caught glimpses of other big white houses, behind their sheltering trees.

“Oh,” she said, “if you only knew how delightful it seems to have real neighbors, Grandmother.21 At home our nearest neighbors were twenty miles away. I’ve been so hungry for people, and houses, and everything.”

The next morning Blue Bonnet made her first acquaintance among her new neighbors. She had gone out to see for herself what lay beyond that tall screen of trees. Nothing at all mysterious, she found; merely another broad green lawn centering itself about an old creeper-covered brick house. Following the path beside the trees, she came to a low picket-fence, over which ran a stile. Blue Bonnet sat down on the upper step to survey at leisure this next-door place; and then she saw that from midway across the lawn some one was surveying her,—a boy of about her own age.

“Good morning,” he said.

“Good morning,” Blue Bonnet answered. “Do you live here?”


“It’s a very pretty place.”

The other turned to look back at the old house. “I suppose it is,” he admitted, “though I’ve never thought much about it.” He came nearer, whistling to a pair of fox-terrier puppies, who were worrying at something at the further end of the lawn. “Do you like dogs?” he asked.

“I adore them,” Blue Bonnet answered.

“Bob and Ben are pretty decent little chaps,” the22 boy said, and he brought the dogs up to be introduced.

“They’re dears,” Blue Bonnet declared warmly, patting the two upturned heads.

The puppies shook hands politely, wagging their stumps of tails eagerly.

“We haven’t any dogs over here,” Blue Bonnet said regretfully. “I don’t know how I’m going to get on without any.”

“We’ll go shares with mine.” The boy hesitated. “You’re—?”

“Bl—Elizabeth Ashe.”

“And I’m Alec Trent. You’re from Texas?”

“Yes,” Blue Bonnet answered.

“How jolly!” Alec threw himself down on the lawn beside the stile. “You won’t mind my making myself comfortable while you tell me about Texas?”

And suddenly Blue Bonnet noticed how thin were the hands clasped under his head, how big and bright the eyes in the delicate, sensitive face.

She leaned forward, stirred by a quick impulse of pity. “I’ll tell you about the prairies.” She told him of the great open sea of prairie land, stretching away in wild, unbroken reaches all about her Texas home.

Alec whistled. “And you had to come away and leave it all! What a shame!—but you’ve got it to go back to—I wish I had!”

23 “Don’t you like it here in Woodford?”

“It’s a poky old hole. You can’t throw a stone in any direction without breaking a window—or a tradition.”

“Do you want to break—windows?”


Blue Bonnet leaned forward, elbow on knee, chin in hand. “I wonder if you’d call it breaking windows—my wanting to come East.”

“Did you want to come?”


“Well!” Alec exclaimed; and she felt for the moment his approval of her lessen.

“Here I’ve been feeling sorry for you all the time,” he said; then he smiled,—“I don’t know but that I’ll have to go on feeling so—because you wanted to come.”

“I don’t mind,” Blue Bonnet said, “as long as you don’t show it too plainly.”

“You’ve come to go to school?” the boy asked.

“Yes; is it a nice school?”

“It’s a good one.”

“Do you go to it?”

“Oh, all the Woodford boys and girls go to it, as their fathers and mothers did before them.”

“I’ve never been to school.”

“Then you’ve got a lot of new experiences coming your way, and they won’t all be pleasant ones. Going to school isn’t all joy, and neither is it all24 the other thing. You’ll get acquainted with a lot of girls that way.”

“I shall like that. I want to know—oh, everybody here!”

“I don’t,” Alec laughed. He got up. “Do you like horses? But of course you do,—a Texas girl.”

“Yes, I love horses,” Blue Bonnet said slowly.

“Come and see my horse, then; Grandfather gave him to me last birthday.” Alec led the way across the lawn to where a path branched off to the stable.

It was a low brick building, matching the house in style. From their comfortable stalls the sober old carriage horses gazed placidly out.

Blue Bonnet went to stroke them. “They’re just like Grandmother’s,” she laughed.

“Oh, we’re a good deal alike here in Woodford,” Alec said, “we ‘first families,’ that is. Of course our horses aren’t all the same color, any more than our houses are; but they’ve all reached about the same state of lazy well-being. But look here!” He turned to another stall.

Blue Bonnet gave a quick exclamation of pleasure and reached out a hand to smooth the glossy head turned towards her. “Oh, he is a beauty!” she cried. “What’s his name?”

“Victor,” Alec moved nearer, and the horse with25 a low whinny of welcome sniffed expectantly at his pocket.

“I’ve your sugar, all right, old fellow,” the boy said, holding out a couple of lumps.

“I reckon he goes well?” Blue Bonnet said.

“Like the wind.”

“You like that?” the girl asked.

“I certainly do. I’d let you try him some day, only I don’t know whether he’d stand skirts—he’s got a pretty spirit of his own.”

Blue Bonnet edged away. “I—think I’d better be going now; I’m afraid it’s late.”

“It’s been a short morning, hasn’t it?” Alec said. “They’re rather long, sometimes.”

“You’ll come over soon?” Blue Bonnet asked, as they reached the stile again.

“Indeed I will,” Alec promised.

“Good-bye,” Blue Bonnet called, as she ran across the lawn and through the garden to the side door. In the hall she met Aunt Lucinda.

“My dear,” Miss Clyde said, something very like annoyance in her voice, “where have you been all the morning?”

Blue Bonnet flushed. “Over to the next place most of the time, Aunt Lucinda.”

“You have been with Alec Trent?”

“Yes, Aunt Lucinda.”

“You have not attended to your unpacking yet?”

26 “No, Aunt Lucinda.”

“Nor seen to your room?”

Blue Bonnet looked surprised. “No, Aunt Lucinda; did you expect me to? I never did at home.”

“Then it is quite time that you began, Elizabeth. If you will come upstairs with me you shall have your first lesson. I consider it most necessary that a young girl should be taught to depend on herself as much as possible.”

Blue Bonnet followed silently. Her room was just as she had left it on going down to breakfast that morning. Now, with the noon sunshine flooding it, and with Aunt Lucinda looking about with grave disapproving eyes, it looked very untidy indeed.

Blue Bonnet sighed longingly for Benita, as she picked up the dress she had worn the day before and carried it to the big empty closet. Then she turned to the open trunk, out of which she had hurriedly pulled various things needed in dressing, that morning.

But Miss Clyde laid a detaining hand on her shoulder. “We will dispose of the things already out before unpacking further, Elizabeth.”

The end of the next hour found Blue Bonnet far from at peace with all her particular world.

“As if it really mattered,” she said to herself, sitting forlornly in a corner of one of the low27 window-seats, “which drawer you put things in; or whether the quilt is on just so. And I haven’t been idling my morning, I’ve been making a friend; and I don’t want to learn to keep house;—anyway, Benita wouldn’t let me keep house if I could.”

She sat up at the sound of a light tap on her door; then the door opened and her grandmother came in.

“I wanted to make sure you were really here, dear,” she said. “You vanished so mysteriously right after breakfast that it was hard to believe you had ever come.”

Blue Bonnet had come forward instantly. “I didn’t mean to stay so,” she said; “I just ran out for a moment to see the garden—it was so good to get out after being shut up in the cars for so long. Then I got acquainted with the boy next door. He’s a very nice boy, Grandmother.”

“Alec is a nice boy, dear; but, I am afraid, a rather lonely one.”

“Lonely! When there are so many people and houses all around?”

Mrs. Clyde smiled. “One can be lonely in the midst of a crowd, dear.”

She drew Blue Bonnet down on the lounge beside her. “I hope you like your room, Elizabeth. I superintended the arranging of it myself.”

And Blue Bonnet, looking about the big, pleasant room, saw it with new understanding. “I—I28 love it,” she said; “I’ll—try to keep it nice, Grandmother.”

“You have had a pleasant morning, dear?”

Blue Bonnet hesitated. “It was nice—while I was out-of-doors. Grandmother,”—she looked up questioningly,—“have I got to do things every morning with Aunt Lucinda?”

“Do things, Elizabeth!”

“Why, going over my studies with her, and learning to do things about the house; and then my practising, too?”

“What would you like to do with your mornings, Elizabeth?”

“Nothing in particular, just be out-of-doors.”

“Won’t the afternoons be long enough for that, dear?”

“I’ve never found the whole day really long enough for it, Grandmother. I just love being out.”

“But, Elizabeth, school will be beginning before very long; and I think we must try and tame you down a bit before then. As for your studies, your aunt is anxious to learn what your standing is. Suppose, however, we let lessons go for this week. How will that do?”

“Thursday, Friday, Saturday,” Blue Bonnet counted, “besides this afternoon—I ought to get to know Woodford pretty well in that time, Grandmother.”

29 “And when are we going to get to know you, Elizabeth?”

“Why!” Blue Bonnet said, “I hadn’t thought of that; but there’ll be the evenings.”

Mrs. Clyde smiled. “Remember, Elizabeth, that Woodford covers a fairly wide area; you mustn’t roam too far afield alone.”

“Maybe Alec’ll go with me. I wish I had Don; he went everywhere at home with me. He’s the dearest dog, Grandmother.”

“I rather think Don is happier where he is, dear; and now we must go down to dinner.”

That afternoon Blue Bonnet was in her own room, just finishing a letter to her uncle, when Miss Clyde came to her door. “Elizabeth,” she said, “Sarah Blake has come to call upon you. She is the minister’s daughter, a most estimable young person. I sincerely hope you may become friends.” She scanned Blue Bonnet critically. “You would do well to change your gown and tidy your hair. Be as quick as possible; it is never good taste to keep a guest waiting.”

Five minutes later, Blue Bonnet came slowly downstairs; pausing on the landing long enough to declare under her breath that she was perfectly sure she should hate Sarah Blake.

Sarah was waiting in the darkened front parlor. She was short and fair; rather unimaginative and30 decidedly conscientious. She very much disliked calling upon strangers, and for that reason had chosen the earliest opportunity to come and see Blue Bonnet.

“How do you do?” she said, as Blue Bonnet appeared. “Mrs. Clyde asked me to come and see you. I hope you will like Woodford.”

“So do I,” Blue Bonnet answered. “Would you mind coming outside?” she added. “It’s much nicer.”

They went out to the shady front piazza where Blue Bonnet drew forward a couple of wicker armchairs. “Now I can see what you look like,” she announced frankly; “it was so dark in there.”

Sarah looked rather uncomfortable at this.

“Aunt Lucinda says she hopes we will be friends,” Blue Bonnet went on. “What do you like to do?”

Sarah opened and closed her fan nervously. “I like—keeping house, and going to school and—sewing—”

“Please stop!” Blue Bonnet implored. “I don’t mean those kinds of things. Don’t you like doing anything—sensible?”

Sarah stared. “Sensible!”

“Well, what I call sensible—tiresome things can’t be really sensible, can they?”

It was a new philosophy for Sarah.

31 “Are all the girls here like that?” Blue Bonnet asked.

“I—suppose so. Kitty Clark isn’t very domestic, I’m afraid.”

Blue Bonnet registered a mental vow to get acquainted with Kitty Clark as soon as possible. “Wouldn’t you like to see the garden?” she asked.

Sarah assented; she felt dizzy and bewildered. “Mrs. Clyde has a very pretty garden,” she said, politely, as they went down the steps and along the trim box-bordered path.

“It’s all right!” Blue Bonnet agreed. She gathered flowers with a generous hand. “And now, what shall we do next?” she asked, giving them to Sarah.

“I must be going,” Sarah answered.

“But you’ve only just come!” Blue Bonnet protested.

“I think I have made a very long call,” Sarah said soberly; and indeed it may have seemed long to Sarah.

Outside the gate, she stopped a moment. Texas girls were certainly rather exhausting, and yet she thought she should like Elizabeth Ashe. Perhaps, after she had been in Woodford a while, she would quiet down.

Half an hour before supper Miss Clyde came round to the side piazza, where her mother sat32 reading. “Mother,” she asked, “have you seen Elizabeth?”

“Not since dinner time, Lucinda.”

“She does not appear to be anywhere about the place,” Miss Clyde said, rather anxiously. “She is utterly irresponsible; Mr. Ashe should have sent her East long ago.”

“I think she is coming now,” Mrs. Clyde said.

There was the sound of quick steps on the drive; a moment after, Blue Bonnet, hatless, her white dress soiled and crumpled, appeared, carrying a small dog in her arms.

“Grandmother,” she cried, “I’ve got a dog! I bought him from a boy up the road,—he was treating him mighty mean.”

“What are you going to do with him, Elizabeth?” Miss Clyde asked.

“Why, keep him, Aunt Lucinda. He’s a pretty dilapidated-looking specimen now, isn’t he? But wait until he’s had a bath and a few good meals. I reckon if ever a dog needed a good home, he does.”

Blue Bonnet put the dog down and he made straight for Aunt Lucinda, crouching at her feet beseechingly. He was truly the forlornest of creatures, but with strangely pathetic, intelligent brown eyes.

A moment Miss Clyde wavered; then she moved away. “I think those ‘good meals’ cannot begin too soon, Elizabeth,” she said. “But he must stay down at the stable.”


33 “Not for always?” the girl cried.

“That will have to be decided later,” her grandmother told her; “take him away now, dear.”

“I think I’ll call him Solomon, he looks so wise,” Blue Bonnet said. Halfway down to the stable, she stooped to pat the dog’s rough head. “Solomon,” she asked, “how did you know that Aunt Lucinda held the deciding vote?”



“‘Mrs. Clyde requests the pleasure of,’—yes, Aunt Lucinda,—Kitty Clark,—she’s that redheaded girl, Aunt Lucinda?”

“Yes, Elizabeth.”

“Well, I’ve requested ‘the pleasure of Miss Kitty Clark’s company,’ all right,” Blue Bonnet observed a moment later. She sighed wearily. “It would have been a whole lot easier if we’d just stuck a notice up in the post-office, Aunt Lucinda.”


Under their long lashes, Blue Bonnet’s eyes danced mischievously. She was learning how to draw forth that particular note of shocked astonishment; and to rather enjoy doing it.

“Who’s next, Aunt Lucinda?” she asked.

“That will be all.”

“Only six! Why I’ve seen a heap of girls at church, Aunt Lucinda!”

“A what, Elizabeth?”

“Ever ’n’ ever so many, Aunt Lucinda.”


“Won’t the others be disappointed?”

“Really, Elizabeth, I do not know.”

35 “But, Aunt Lucinda, aren’t there to be any boys? Isn’t Alec coming?”

“The invitations are all written, Elizabeth.”

“Don’t you like boys, Aunt Lucinda?”

“Suppose you direct the envelopes now, Elizabeth.”

Blue Bonnet bit her lips; she was not used to having her remarks set aside in this fashion.

When the last envelope had been added to the little pile, lying on the desk before her, she drew a deep breath of relief. “I think I’ll take Solomon for a run,” she said.

“Have you done your practising yet, Elizabeth?” her aunt asked.

“No, Aunt Lucinda.”

“Then you would better go to it now; by the time you are through I shall be at liberty to go over your Latin with you.”

“If you please, Aunt Lucinda, I’d so much rather go over the fields with Solomon, instead.”


And Blue Bonnet, as she went across the hall to the dim back parlor, felt that Aunt Lucinda thought she had meant to be impertinent. “When it was just the straight truth,” the girl said. As she went to throw open the blinds, the riot of color in the garden beyond caught and held her. It would be easier practising with a great bunch of fragrant nasturtiums beside her.

36 But the nasturtiums took a long time to gather, particularly as Solomon, finding her there, kept making little rushes among the flower-beds—which were strictly forbidden ground. Solomon was getting more in evidence every day. Blue Bonnet had secret visions of the time when he should even be tolerated in the house. “The stable, indeed!” she said now. “You’re not going to stay that kind of a dog, are you, sir?”

Solomon barked an emphatic negative.

“Doesn’t the air feel good, Solomon?” Blue Bonnet said. “But I reckon I’ll have to be going back to the house. Take my advice, old fellow, and never go in for music in summer-time; there’s too much practising about it.”

“Elizabeth!” Aunt Lucinda called from the piazza.

And Blue Bonnet obeyed hurriedly.

“You should have closed the blinds again when you were through in the parlor, Elizabeth,” Miss Clyde said.

Blue Bonnet came to a sudden halt at the foot of the piazza steps. “But, Aunt Lucinda, I wasn’t through! I—I haven’t begun. It can’t be an hour! I only went out for a moment to gather some flowers.”

“Bring your Latin grammar, Elizabeth; your practising must wait now until after dinner.”

“But dinner isn’t till two o’clock, Aunt Lucinda!37 I won’t get through until nearly four! I sha’n’t have any afternoon at all!”

“Whose fault is that, Elizabeth?”

Latin verbs did not progress very well that morning; both teacher and pupil were glad when the hour was over.

Blue Bonnet went to spend the intervening twenty minutes before dinner in the hammock on the front piazza. Uncle Giff’s easy rule had hardly prepared the girl for the orderly, busy routine that life stood for in this staid old house. Mrs. Clyde, coming out presently, saw the shadow on Blue Bonnet’s face, and, bit by bit, drew the story of the morning from her.

“I didn’t mean not to practise,” the girl said; “but I was so tired writing those notes; some of them got blotted and had to be done over; and I was wild to get out—and it wasn’t fair of—”

“Careful, Elizabeth!”

Blue Bonnet colored. They forgot that she was fifteen and—and—mistress of the Blue Bonnet Ranch.

“Elizabeth,” her grandmother said, gravely, “suppose you try to look at things from your aunt’s point of view. Remember, dear, she is trying to do her best by a very heedless, motherless girl.”

All resentment vanished from Blue Bonnet’s blue38 eyes. Just before dinner she appeared before Miss Clyde, Latin grammar in hand.

“I think I know that verb now, Aunt Lucinda,” she said. “Will there be time to hear me say it?”

Miss Clyde took the book.

Blue Bonnet did know that verb; knew it in all its various moods and tenses with the thoroughness her aunt delighted in. “That was very well done, Elizabeth,” she said.

And Blue Bonnet found the quiet words of commendation well worth while.

Conversation during dinner, led by Mrs. Clyde, concerned itself chiefly with the coming tea-party. Tea-parties were unknown things to Blue Bonnet. It seemed to her that they were rather serious affairs. Especially did it appear too bad to go to so much trouble for so few guests; and she could not get over her feeling of sympathy for those left out.

“These are the young girls from among whom your grandmother and I wish you to choose your friends, Elizabeth,” her aunt told her.

“Then I’m not to like them all, Aunt Lucinda?”

“Certainly, if you find them all congenial.”

“I hope some of them are a little more lively than Sarah Blake,” Blue Bonnet observed thoughtfully. “I don’t dislike Sarah, but I can’t say as I’m very keen on her—yet.”

“It is not good taste to criticize your friends, Elizabeth.”

39 “I’m not sure she is going to be a friend, Aunt Lucinda.”


Whereupon, Blue Bonnet asked to be excused, and went to her practising. “I’m getting a bit tired of being—‘Elizabethed,’” she said, screwing up the piano-stool with quite unnecessary vigor.

Thursday, the day set for the tea-party, was in Blue Bonnet’s estimation a perfect day. Wednesday had been decidedly hot; but during the night a sudden change had come, and to-day the air was clear and fresh, with a touch of the coming fall in it. It sent the blood thrilling through Blue Bonnet’s veins, and made her if anything more careless and inconsequent than usual.

All the morning the outdoor world was calling to her, getting in return more than one involuntary response. About noontime, Alec came whistling up the back path, Bob and Ben at his heels. Blue Bonnet was on the steps studying.

“Busy?” he asked.

“I’m through now, thank Fortune!”

“Then you can come?”


“Did you ever follow a brook?”

Blue Bonnet threw down her book and caught up her shade hat from a nearby chair. “Let’s start right away!”

40 They went down the path to where a gate opened into a wide open meadow, Blue Bonnet whistling to Solomon as they went.

At the foot of the meadow lay the brook; a sunny, quiet enough little brook, until, further on, it suddenly entered the woods, where it laughed and gurgled and tumbled headlong over rocks in the most delightful way.

Halfway towards the woods, Alec halted. “Wait a bit, Elizabeth,” he said, “and I’ll cut back to the house and get Norah to put us up some lunch.”

“All right,” Blue Bonnet agreed, sitting down in the long meadow-grass to wait. The three dogs had disappeared on an important chase, and she was left all alone. From where she sat there was nothing to be seen but open fields and blue sky; and these sent her thoughts homeward. She had been two weeks in Woodford. Looking back now, they seemed to have been rather long weeks. She had spent so much of them indoors, and there had been so many things to be done, to be learned.

Lying on her back in the tall grass, Blue Bonnet tried to imagine herself back on the prairie. She forgot that she hated the prairie. Oh, but it was good to be out in the open air and sunshine, doing nothing, wanting nothing, caring for nothing!

Alec’s halloa brought her back to the present. He came up at a quick pace, a small covered basket in his hand. “Was I very long?” he asked.

41 “Long enough for me to get to Texas and back.”

“I’d like to have made the trip with you.”

Blue Bonnet had scrambled to her feet. “I think I shall come out here every day for a whole hour and do nothing,” she said.

“I do nothing every day at home—for more than an hour,” Alec answered. “It’s pretty slow work sometimes.”

They had reached the woods now, the brook a slender, noisy thread beside them. On and on they followed it; now on this side, now on that; talking, laughing, growing better acquainted every moment. Ahead of them, the three dogs raced and barked and behaved in the absurd, carefree way usual with puppies.

“Isn’t Solomon getting better-looking every day?” Blue Bonnet said.

“Is he? He must have been a beauty at the start,” Alec declared.

“Oh, he isn’t a thoroughbred—except as to his feelings; but he’s a mighty nice dog. He’s devoted to Aunt Lucinda.”

“Does she return his devotion?”

“I honestly think she does like him a little; and she really is good to him,” Blue Bonnet said, soberly.

“He’s having the time of his life now, all right,” Alec laughed. A moment later he came to a sudden halt; he had been fighting against the need for42 rest for the last half-hour. It was intolerable to be played out in this way, with Blue Bonnet showing not the slightest sign of fatigue.

“We might camp here,” he suggested. In spite of himself, he could not keep the tiredness out of his voice.

Blue Bonnet looked up at him. “Yes,” she said quickly, “this will be fine.”

They spread the napkin covering the basket over a flat stone and laid out the lunch.

“My, but I’m hungry,” Blue Bonnet declared. “It’s fun, isn’t it, eating out-of-doors?”

Alec nodded.

“I’m having a tea-party this afternoon,” Blue Bonnet said. “Just a lot of girls, or you should have been invited.”

“I’m afraid I don’t like tea-parties,” Alec laughed.

“This is my first. I think it’s going to be lots of fun; only I’m scared I sha’n’t do Aunt Lucinda credit.”

“There isn’t anything to do, except put on your best duds and act ‘proper.’”

Blue Bonnet took a second sandwich. “But acting ‘proper’ in Woodford seems to mean such a lot.”

“What time does the shindig come off?”

“Half-past five. Sarah Blake’s coming, and Kitty Clark, Amanda Parker, Debby Slade, and43 Ruth and Susy Doyle. I know Sarah and Debby; they’ve called. There are a lot of girls in Woodford, aren’t they?”

“Loads. And I’ll bet my best hat that not a single one of them, if they had a tea-party on, would be off tramping the woods like this,” Alec said, passing the apple turnovers and cheese.

“But it isn’t until afternoon!” Blue Bonnet exclaimed. “Oh, Alec, think how nearly summer is over! School’ll be beginning soon now. It’s going to be odd, having a woman teacher; I’ve always studied under tutors. I’ve had a lot of different ones. Aunt Lucinda says that largely accounts for my ‘desultory habits.’ But I’ve read a good deal. Uncle Cliff used to have a box of books sent out every little while. I haven’t kept up my music very well—all of the tutors weren’t musical. I can play by ear, though; but Aunt Lucinda says it would be better if I didn’t.”

“What makes you quote Miss Clyde so much?” Alec asked.

Blue Bonnet laughed. “Because it seems somehow as if it were Aunt Lucinda who was running this ranch.” She leaned back against a gnarled old stump. “Sometimes I wish,” she said, “that there were two of me—so that one of us could stay at home and be taught things, and behave nicely, while the other went wandering about as she liked.”

44 “You might adopt Sarah for your alter ego,” Alec suggested.

“It’s very puzzling—how people get mixed up. Sarah would have been such a suitable niece for Aunt Lucinda; though I really don’t believe,” Blue Bonnet’s blue eyes twinkled, “that she would have suited Grandmother as well as I do. Alec, it’s so—queer, being in a family where there are just women.”

“I’ve never tried it; sometimes I’ve thought it seemed rather lonesome being in a family where there weren’t any women.” Alec commenced to gather up the dishes, tossing the scraps to the dogs.

Blue Bonnet’s eyes were thoughtful. “It’s strange how much we have in common. Oh, Alec, I ought to be doing that!”

“It’s all done,” Alec answered.

“Sarah would’ve?”

“Yes, and washed the dishes in the brook, and tidied things up generally.”

“But at home no one ever expected me to do anything like that,” Blue Bonnet explained; “that’s the reason I’m always forgetting now.”

The talk drifted from Texas to Woodford and back again; broken by long pauses, in which each was content to sit silent in the soft green twilight of the woods, listening to the faint rustling of the trees overhead, the murmuring of the brook, and the occasional call of a bird.

45 It was a good while before Alec looked at his watch; then he sprang to his feet. “Elizabeth, you’ve got exactly one hour and a half in which to make a two hour and a half walk, and get into your company duds.”

Blue Bonnet stared up at him, too astonished to move. “Alec, it isn’t four o’clock!”

“Three minutes after—now!”

“And they don’t even know where I am!” Blue Bonnet gasped.

“We’ll have to do some pretty tall sprinting,” Alec said.

It seemed to Blue Bonnet that after miles of hurried, heated scrambling they were still fathoms deep in those interminable woods. She felt that Alec was hurrying far beyond his strength; but he would not let her go on without him. She had given up counting the numbers of times she had stepped into the brook instead of over it, and the tears in her skirt.

Then at last, rounding a sharp curve, they saw the open meadow before them. They were crossing it when Alec held up his hand. “Listen!” he said.

Faint and clear through the summer stillness sounded the village clock, striking half-past five.

Suddenly the humor of the situation struck Blue Bonnet. “My first tea-party!” she gasped, between paroxysms of laughter.

“Come on,” Alec warned her. “There’s some46 one watching for you now down at the gate; probably there are scouts out in every direction.”

The watcher was Delia, the second girl. “Oh, Miss Elizabeth,” she cried, “we’ve been looking for you everywhere!”

At the back door, Miss Clyde met Blue Bonnet. “Elizabeth!” she exclaimed, in tones of mingled relief and displeasure, “where have you been?”

“Following a brook with Alec, Aunt Lucinda.”

“With your guests waiting in the parlor, and tea-time set for half-past five! Go up to your room at once—I have laid out your things—we will talk of this later.”

Blue Bonnet stumbled blindly upstairs; sitting on the floor to change her shoes and stockings, she could hardly see the lacings for the tears blinding her eyes.

Everything went wrong; strings went into knots; pins pricked her. Worst of all, her heavy hair got into a hopeless tangle. She was struggling with it desperately, trying to get out the bits of twigs and dried moss, when someone, coming up behind her, took the brush from her hands. “Let me try, Elizabeth,” Mrs. Clyde said.

Soon, as if by magic, the soft thick braid was ready for its white ribbon. And all the time Mrs. Clyde had not spoken again, but the look in her eyes was harder to meet than Aunt Lucinda’s displeasure had been.

47 “Have I been very bad, Grandmother?” the girl asked, wistfully.

“I cannot say that you have been very considerate, Elizabeth.”

Blue Bonnet’s lips quivered. Mrs. Clyde gave a few finishing touches to her white dress and hurried her downstairs.

And all this time, in the big front parlor, six highly-starched, immaculate young people were trying to appear interested in the decidedly perfunctory conversation Miss Clyde was endeavoring to keep up; carrying on among themselves at the same time little whispered exclamations of wonder and amusement.

Astonishment that anyone belonging to Miss Clyde could behave in such a way was only rivalled by the delightful uncertainty as to what might be to follow; and when presently Blue Bonnet, flushed, apologetic, but extremely glad to see them all, made her appearance, they received her warmly, if a little shyly.

In spite of its disastrous beginning, that tea-party was a great success,—a success due principally to Blue Bonnet herself. There was nothing stiff or formal about her; and her frank enjoyment of the society of so many girls of her own age was infectious.

Tea in Woodford was usually followed by music; and those of the girls who could play had come duly48 prepared. One by one, various old standbys were rendered, and then it was Blue Bonnet’s turn.

There was a laugh in the girl’s eyes as she took her place at the piano. A moment later, not a girl in the room but was beating time to the gay little tune she was playing.

Never before had such rollicking, joyous strains sounded through the sober old house. Mrs. Clyde, sitting by herself on the piazza, tapped the arm of her chair with her fan softly.

“I got that from one of the cowboys,” Blue Bonnet turned to explain; “you ought to hear him play it on his fiddle, and see the others dancing, and the camp-fire glowing.”

Six pairs of eyes were fixed on Blue Bonnet. “Oh,” Kitty cried, breathlessly, “how could you ever bear to come and leave it?—the ranch, I mean.”

Blue Bonnet’s face sobered. “Because—”

“She had to come to go to school,” Debby Slade said.

“Yes,” Blue Bonnet answered, “I had to come.”

It was Sarah who made the first move to go, making it very prettily and very properly.

Blue Bonnet promptly vetoed the suggestion; they would all go out on the piazza and sing songs and tell stories in the moonlight.

But Sarah could be adamant when it was a case49 of duty; and Sarah’s ideas on duty were far-reaching. She was the eldest, and she felt that it was her place to set the example.

So, although some of her flock threatened to prove rebellious, she presently led them upstairs to the best bedroom, to put on hats and gloves.

Blue Bonnet, perched insecurely on the footboard of the big mahogany bedstead, beamed upon them one and all, urging them to drop in whenever they liked without waiting to be invited.

“I will, for one,” Kitty promised; and, while the rest filed solemnly downstairs in line, Kitty pulled Blue Bonnet back, giving her a hearty hug. “Oh, but I am glad you’ve come!” she said.

Woodford etiquette required that Blue Bonnet should go with her guests to the front door—and no further. Blue Bonnet went gaily down to the gate.

On her way back to the house, she suddenly remembered her escapade of the afternoon, and what Aunt Lucinda had said. Perhaps Aunt Lucinda had forgotten by now.

One glance at Miss Clyde’s face, on re-entering the parlor, dispelled any such hope. Blue Bonnet took sudden heart of grace.

“Aunt Lucinda,” she said, going up to where her aunt stood waiting for her, “it was a very nice party, and I’m very much obliged to you, and I—I am sorry I was late, I—”

50 “You should not have gone at all, Elizabeth,” Miss Clyde said gravely.

The reproof which followed, if a little severe, was not unjust. Blue Bonnet listened silently, but her face expressed both astonishment and indignation. Never before had she been talked to in that fashion—and after she had said she was sorry, too. Her one desire was to get away.

“Is that all, Aunt Lucinda?” she asked, the instant Miss Clyde stopped speaking.

“That is all, Elizabeth, except,” Miss Clyde’s voice softened a little, “that I very much regret having had to speak to you like this and that I hope it need not occur again. You may go now. Good night, Elizabeth.”

“Good night, Aunt Lucinda,” Blue Bonnet answered steadily; but, once on the other side of the parlor door, her breath caught in a quick sob, and later, as she buried her wet face in her pillow, she told herself miserably that she never, never could live up to Aunt Lucinda’s requirements.



Blue Bonnet came down to breakfast the next morning considerably less debonair than usual.

“And how do you like tea-parties, Elizabeth?” her grandmother asked.

“Very well, Grandmother. And I like the girls, all of them.”

Breakfast over, Blue Bonnet went upstairs to put her room in order. It was a task for which habit was by no means bringing any liking, and which had frequently to be done over. To-day, however, bureau drawers were closed, rugs straightened, and the bedclothes put on most carefully. Aunt Lucinda should find nothing to complain of that morning.

Miss Clyde, glancing in a little later, gave a nod of satisfaction; if only Elizabeth would do her best every day. “Your room looks very nice, Elizabeth,” she said, as Blue Bonnet came to do her Latin.

“Yes, Aunt Lucinda,” the girl said; “are you ready now?”

Altogether, Miss Clyde felt greatly encouraged that morning; but Blue Bonnet’s grandmother,52 watching the sober face bent over her book, sighed softly.

“Lucinda,” she asked, when Blue Bonnet had left the room, “what have you been doing to Elizabeth?—she is not the same child this morning.”

“I spoke very plainly to her last night about her behavior yesterday afternoon. I am glad to see that it has taken effect.”

“I imagine Elizabeth has not been used to plain speaking.”

“Probably not. She has been spoiled outrageously.”

“I do not think the spoiling has gone very deep. Gentleness and patience will do much towards eradicating it, I believe. We must remember how irregular the child’s upbringing has been for the past ten years.”

“For that very reason—” Miss Clyde began, but stopped speaking as Blue Bonnet came back.

“Elizabeth,” she said a few moments later, glancing to where the girl stood idly by one of the sitting-room windows, “how would you like to go into Boston with me this afternoon?”

Blue Bonnet turned eagerly. “May I, Aunt Lucinda? And could we go to the Museum? Alec’s told me such a lot about the Museum.”

“Suppose you go over and ask Alec to go with us. But hurry right back; we’ll get the twelve o’clock train and lunch in town.”

53 And Blue Bonnet did hurry, tearing headlong across the lawn to the stile, Solomon barking at her heels.

Miss Clyde watched her for a moment. “Who could ever dream she was fifteen!” she exclaimed.

“If only she might stay fifteen, Lucinda,” her mother answered; “granting we can keep her that long—eighteen will so soon be here.”

Blue Bonnet enjoyed her afternoon immensely; she had never dreamed Aunt Lucinda could be so—well, lovely.

The three had lunch at a quiet little restaurant in one of the side streets, before going to the Museum.

At the latter, Alec showed Blue Bonnet all his favorite pictures, laughing over her comments, which were not always favorable; and the two wandered about from room to room, while Miss Clyde rested.

“It’s all been perfectly lovely,” Blue Bonnet declared warmly, as the train drew into Woodford station that evening.

“It has been jolly,” Alec agreed. “Thanks ever so much, Miss Clyde.”

“We must go again,” Miss Clyde answered.

“Grandmother,” Blue Bonnet said just before bedtime, looking up from the piazza steps, where she had been sitting in silence for some moments,54 “it’s very uncomfortable, not being friends with people.”

“Who aren’t you friends with, dear?”

“I wasn’t friends—altogether—with Aunt Lucinda this morning; but—well, she certainly did behave beautifully this afternoon.”

The darkness hid the quick smile on Mrs. Clyde’s face.

Saturday was a fairly uneventful day; but by Sunday morning, Blue Bonnet was entirely herself again. It was a beautiful morning and she was up and out early, coming in very late to breakfast, her arms full of wild flowers and bracken, her dress torn, her hair blown and tangled.

“I just couldn’t bear to come in at all,” she explained, beamingly, laying her treasures down on the breakfast table: “it’s too lovely in the woods.”

“Go and put your flowers in water and make yourself presentable as quickly as possible, Elizabeth,” her aunt said.

Some of the brightness vanished from Blue Bonnet’s face. She gathered up her flowers in silence and left the room, returning in a few moments to take her place at the table.

“It must have been delightful in the woods this morning,” Mrs. Clyde said.

“It was, Grandmother! I’m going right back as soon as breakfast is over,” Blue Bonnet announced.

55 “There will not be time before church, Elizabeth,” Miss Clyde told her. “You will have to hurry, as it is.”

“But I’ve decided not to go to church this morning, Aunt Lucinda. I’ve been two Sundays, you know. It was dreadfully tiresome—the sermon. Mr. Blake does so remind me of Sarah.”


“He does, Aunt Lucinda. I like him out of church, all right. I wouldn’t mind going to church, if they’d have it out-of-doors, the way we used to sometimes on the ranch when the missionaries came. The singing does sound so good out-of-doors.”

“There is not time to argue the matter, Elizabeth,” Miss Clyde said, quietly. “Finish your breakfast; then go and get ready for church.”

Blue Bonnet’s cheeks were crimson. “But I said I was not going, Aunt Lucinda.”

Miss Clyde rose. “I have told you what I wish you to do, Elizabeth; we will not discuss the matter further.” She left the room to give her directions to Delia.

And Blue Bonnet, not wishing, in her present mood, to be left alone with her grandmother, pushed her chair back from the table and ran hastily upstairs to her room.

She would not go to church! If Aunt Lucinda had asked—Aunt Lucinda must learn, once for56 all, that she was not a child to be ordered to do things.

Blue Bonnet set about doing up her room, doing it with a thoroughness not born, in this instance, from the best of motives. In any case, there was not time for both; and it was Aunt Lucinda’s own teaching that the duty nearest at hand must be done first.

“Has Elizabeth come down, Mother?” Miss Lucinda asked some time later, coming out to the veranda where her mother sat waiting, ready for church.

“Not yet,” Mrs. Clyde answered.

Miss Clyde turned to Delia, who happened to be crossing the hall. “Please tell Miss Elizabeth that we are waiting for her.”

Delia was soon back. “Miss Elizabeth says she isn’t going to church this morning, ma’am.”

Miss Clyde finished buttoning her gloves, and opened her parasol. “I am ready, Mother,” she said.

Blue Bonnet heard them go. All at once, the big house seemed very empty and still. Her room was in order, her morning lay before her; but freedom had lost its charm, the woods no longer called to her.

Aunt Lucinda had had no right to spoil her day—her day that had begun so beautifully—she told herself, staring out into the sunlit garden with57 mutinous eyes. It was quite impossible to keep friends with Aunt Lucinda; she should not try any more.

And then, quite unaccountably, there flashed across the girl’s mind the memory of that last night at home. It almost seemed as if she could hear her uncle saying, “And, Honey, you won’t forget what your father said: that you were to try to live as he had taught you to ride, straight and true.”

Straight and true!

She wasn’t living very straight this Sunday morning; and it hadn’t been true—pretending to herself that there wasn’t time.

Just before the sermon, during the singing of the hymn, Blue Bonnet came hurriedly down the middle aisle to the Clyde pew, and slipped into her place between her grandmother and aunt, standing a little nearer Miss Clyde than usual, and offering to share her hymn-book, instead of her grandmother’s.

Involuntarily, Miss Lucinda cast a swift, comprehensive glance over the flushed white-clad figure. Then she drew a quick breath of reassurance: evidently Delia had lent a helping hand.

Blue Bonnet heard little of the sermon, save the text, “‘I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.’”

The words sent her eyes to the window opposite: “Sacred to the memory of Elizabeth Clyde Ashe.”

58 The sunlight, shining through the rich, softly glowing colors, brought into relief the figure of The Good Shepherd with the lamb in his arms. And, suddenly, Blue Bonnet was a little child again, sitting in her mother’s lap, in the early twilight of a summer Sunday, listening to the parable of The Good Shepherd.

Grandmother, glancing down at the grave, serious face, wondered what the girl’s thoughts were—and where? Hardly in Woodford, for it was with a little start of recollection that Blue Bonnet came back to the present, at the ending of the sermon.

But in the singing of the closing hymn her voice rang out sweet and clear—

“The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His,
And He is mine forever.”

It was a very silent walk home; even Blue Bonnet had little to say. She had declined Kitty’s invitation to walk with her; declined, also, to explain to that curious young person why she had come so late to church.

More than once during that walk, Blue Bonnet glanced a little doubtfully at her aunt; but the moment they reached home she followed Miss Clyde to her room.

“Please, Aunt Lucinda,” she said, standing just59 inside the doorway, “won’t you say what you’re going to right away? I’d like to have it over.”

Miss Clyde smiled. “It won’t take long, Elizabeth. After this, your grandmother and I would like to have you ready to go with us on Sunday morning.”

“I will—truly, Aunt Lucinda. But is that all?”

“I think there need be nothing more, dear.”

Blue Bonnet went downstairs very soberly. Decidedly one could be friends with Aunt Lucinda.

Towards dusk that evening, it suddenly occurred to Miss Clyde that Elizabeth had not been in evidence for some time. “I do hope,” she said, “that we are not to have any more—encounters, to-day. Elizabeth knows we expect her to stay at home on Sunday evening.”

“Elizabeth’s intentions are so much better than her memory,” Mrs. Clyde answered.

A moment or two later, Blue Bonnet came around the corner of the house, Solomon at her heels. “May he come up on the piazza for a few moments, Aunt Lucinda?” she asked. “Seeing that it is Sunday?”

“Seeing that it is Sunday, I suppose he may,” Miss Clyde answered; “only how is he to distinguish between Sunday and Monday?”

“I reckon I’ll have to go on doing it for him—for60 awhile. He’s getting to be a very nice dog, Aunt Lucinda. Denham says he’s a good part water-spaniel.”

Miss Clyde patted the head Solomon had laid confidingly on her knee. “It’s a long while since we’ve had a dog about the place. Where have you been, Elizabeth? I haven’t seen you since supper.”

“Not out of bounds, Aunt Lucinda; I’ve been down at the stable.”

“Down at the stable, Elizabeth!” Miss Clyde looked as though she thought Blue Bonnet had not been strictly within bounds.

“Visiting Denham—he liked it so much, and so did I. The horses are getting to know me, Aunt Lucinda; you see, I take them sugar and fresh clover. I’ve been telling Denham about the ranch, and he’s been telling me about—before Mamma went to Texas.”

“Denham has been asking me when we were going to get you a saddle-horse, Elizabeth,” Grandmother said.

“He said something about it to me to-night, Grandmother. I told him I—didn’t want one.”

Mrs. Clyde looked surprised, but relieved. She had expected Blue Bonnet to ride; and if she rode in the haphazard fashion she did most things, there would have been a good many anxious moments ahead for Lucinda and herself.

61 “Solomon,” Blue Bonnet said, “I reckon you’d better be going back now.”

Solomon cocked a protesting ear; he was quite content to sit there on the piazza steps and view the landscape. Solomon was a sociable dog and, though fond of Denham, thoroughly enjoyed being in company. Most of all, he enjoyed being wherever Blue Bonnet was.

“Solomon!” Blue Bonnet said warningly.

Solomon rolled over on his back, waving his feet in the air; from the corner of one eye he watched to see what would happen next.

Leaning over, Blue Bonnet cuffed him lightly but firmly—which was hardly what Solomon had been looking for.

“Solomon, I told you to go,” his mistress said; and Solomon went.

“He minds pretty well, don’t you think?” Blue Bonnet asked. “I don’t believe he’s ever had to mind before he came here, and it comes a bit hard; but he’s got a lot of sense, and when he once understands that he—” Blue Bonnet stopped speaking rather abruptly, as her eyes met her grandmother’s. Jumping up, she went indoors.

A moment later, from the parlor came the plaintive sound of an old Spanish melody, that chimed in well with the softly gathering twilight.

“Elizabeth has her mother’s touch,” Mrs. Clyde said.

62 “Yes,” her daughter answered. Blue Bonnet’s mother had been very dear to the graver, older sister. It had not been easy for her to put her affection into words; but it had been none the less true and strong. Sometimes Miss Clyde thought that the girl’s likeness to her mother hurt almost as much as it comforted her.

“I wish we might have had the child earlier,” she said. “It would have been easier for both sides.”

Mrs. Clyde was smiling. “She ‘minds pretty well. I don’t believe she’s ever had to mind before she came here, and it comes a bit hard; but she’s got a lot of sense, and when she once understands that she—’ Elizabeth has preached her own sermon, Lucinda; and I think we may safely trust her to make the application.”

Blue Bonnet looked up at the old red brick Academy, half in curiosity, half in dismay. “It’s not very—cheerful-looking, is it, Aunt Lucinda? Did you like going to school here?”

“Yes, Elizabeth, and I hope you will like it, too.”

“If I don’t I suppose I can stop going,” Blue Bonnet said thoughtfully; and Miss Clyde let the remark pass.

Blue Bonnet followed her aunt upstairs, with heart beating faster than usual. Here and there,63 through open doors, she caught glimpses of different classrooms. Should she have to sit at one of those little cramped-up desks?

Presently, Miss Clyde stopped before a glass door, on which was printed in large black letters, “Principal’s Office.” A moment later, Blue Bonnet was being presented to a tall, scholarly looking man who spoke to her very pleasantly, hoping she would enjoy her school life in Woodford.

“I understand from your aunt that you have never been to school, Miss Elizabeth,” he added.

“But I’ve had tutors,” the girl answered. “The last one was fine—he was there a good while; he only went away last June.”

Mr. Hunt turned to a little table standing by one of the windows. “Will you sit down here, Miss Elizabeth? I should like to see how much those tutors have taught you, so as to decide where to place you.”

Blue Bonnet stood her examination very well. She had a bright intelligent mind; and her instruction, though not at all systematic according to Miss Clyde’s ideas, had been fairly thorough. In some of her studies, those she liked best, she was ahead of most girls of her age, and the daily drill her aunt had given her the past three weeks had proved most beneficial.

She came home that afternoon, jubilant. “I’m in Kitty’s class, Grandmother,” she announced, delightedly.64 “All of us tea-party girls are in the same class. The teacher’s name is Miss Rankin. I’m afraid she looks rather determined.”

For the first few days Blue Bonnet enjoyed the novelty of school life thoroughly. Her classmates found her delightfully amusing, more so than her teacher did. She was so frankly astonished over all the little rulings of the classroom. “What a lot of things there are to remember!” she told Kitty.

By the middle of the second week, the unaccustomed drill and routine had become monotonous.

Blue Bonnet came home from school one afternoon, flushed and impatient. “It seems to me,” she said, standing by one of the sitting-room windows and restlessly twisting the curtain cord back and forth, “that school’s a fearfully over-rated place.”

“What has gone wrong, Elizabeth?” her grandmother asked.

“Nothing very much, Grandmother; but I do think that tutors are a long sight—”

“Are what, Elizabeth?” Miss Clyde interposed.

“A great deal more accommodating than women teachers. I’m not sure that I shall like going to school.”

“It might be wiser to give it a longer trial before deciding, dear,” Mrs. Clyde suggested quietly.

“Anyhow, the ‘rankin’ officer’ isn’t—”

“Who, Elizabeth?”

65 “That’s what Kitty calls Miss Rankin, Aunt Lucinda. She isn’t very considerate—Miss Rankin, I mean. You wouldn’t like it, if she made you lose your recess, just because you changed your seat.”

“Why did you change your seat?”

“I do get so tired of sitting in one place; besides, the view from the other one was a lot—a great deal—more interesting.”

“Elizabeth!” Miss Clyde exclaimed. “One would think you were five, instead of fifteen! Where are your books? You did not bring them in with you?”

Blue Bonnet turned quickly. “Que asco! I forgot to bring them home!”

“Elizabeth!” her aunt said, “I have told you that I did not wish you to use that expression!”

“It only means, Aunt Lucinda—”

“I do not care to hear its meaning. Perhaps, if you go back to school at once, you may be able to get your books.”

“I’ll go see, Aunt Lucinda,” Blue Bonnet answered cheerfully.

Two hours later, she reappeared; but without her books. “I am tired,” she said, throwing herself back in an armchair; “I’ve been out to Palmer’s—the Hill Farm, Aunt Lucinda—and carried the baby—she’s about three years old—all the way. And I haven’t been for my books,” she66 added hurriedly. “You see, I met little Bell Palmer and the baby down here at the corner; they’d wandered all the way in from the farm, and the baby had hurt her foot, and they were both crying. I started right home with them. I thought maybe there’d be a team going that road, but we never met one going in the right direction, and it’s a pretty lonely road, you know. Mrs. Palmer was glad to see us. Her husband was away, and she hadn’t any one to send.”

“Those Palmer children are always running away,” Miss Clyde said. “It was very kind of you, Elizabeth, to take them home, but how about your lessons for to-morrow?”

“I reckon it’ll mean being kept in, Aunt Lucinda; that’s what the ‘rankin’’—Miss Rankin seems to do to them when they fail too badly. It’s very silly of her, I think; she just has to stay herself.”

“I should not like it to be that, Elizabeth; particularly under the circumstances. For this time, you may go down to the parsonage after supper, and study with Sarah. Delia shall call for you at nine o’clock.”

“That’ll do finely, Aunt Lucinda.”

So, after supper, Blue Bonnet presented herself at the parsonage.

“But how came you to leave your books at school, Elizabeth?” Sarah asked.

67 “Forgot them,” Blue Bonnet answered, serenely. “One can’t remember everything all the time.”

“But—” Sarah’s tone was suggestive.

“And sometimes one can’t remember anything any of the time,” Blue Bonnet added.

They went into Mr. Blake’s study, where Sarah lighted the low reading-lamp and drew two very straight-backed chairs up to the table.

“I wish you wouldn’t look so businesslike, Sarah,” Blue Bonnet said. “You make me feel tired.”

“Elizabeth, don’t you ever take anything seriously?” Sarah asked gravely.

“Not lessons, at all events,” Blue Bonnet laughed. “Come on, I’m ready. Let’s do our problems first.”

“You’re so quick, Elizabeth,” Sarah said, when the last book had been laid aside. “It’s nice studying together, isn’t it?”

“Did you like it, really?” Blue Bonnet asked. “I thought maybe you’d think it a bother. Oh, Sarah, I’ve thought of the loveliest name for us girls—the ‘We are Seven’s.’”



Uncle Joe came around to the front veranda, where Mr. Ashe sat looking rather lonely. “Any news from Boston and vicinity in that there mail?” he asked.

Mr. Ashe handed him Blue Bonnet’s latest letter.

“Hm, she don’t run much to length, does she?” Uncle Joe commented. “So she’s going to school—and wishes schoolrooms were built without walls. Aunt Lucinda’s very kind, but Grandmother’s a darling. My lady can get a lot of meaning into a few words, can’t she, Cliff?”

But it was the postscript which gave Uncle Joe most delight.

“I suppose,” Blue Bonnet had written, “it’s on account of everything being so different that I keep thinking of the ranch. Anyhow, I think you might write me more about it, Uncle Cliff.”

“So, my lady!” Uncle Joe chuckled.

“She seems fairly contented,” Mr. Ashe said.

Uncle Joe grunted something unintelligible.

“At least, she doesn’t say anything about wanting to come back,” Mr. Ashe went on.

“I’ve heard before that the whole point of a69 woman’s letter was pretty apt to lay in the postscript,” Uncle Joe remarked; “and I reckon this ain’t any exception to the rule. She’s a spunky little piece, Blue Bonnet is. Of course, she ain’t going to say she wants to come back—leastways, not yet.”

Meanwhile, the “spunky little piece” was curled up comfortably in a big armchair at one side of the fireplace in the Trent library. Opposite her sat Alec, flushed and hoarse from a cold, but otherwise quite contented. Between the two, Bob, Ben, and Solomon sprawled in lazy comfort.

Outside, the September wind drove a fierce rain against the windows, making the warmth and brightness within doubly pleasant.

The Trent household, being, with the exception of Norah, a purely masculine establishment, was in Blue Bonnet’s eyes a delightful place. “It’s so nice and untidyish,” she said now, looking about the pleasantly littered room.

“Thanks,” Alec laughed.

“There’s never any dust over at our place.” Blue Bonnet leaned forward to poke one of the great glowing logs. “It’s perfectly lovely to have a whole afternoon free; but I earned it this morning—I behaved like an angel of light—and then as soon as dinner was over, before Grandmother had gone upstairs, I asked if I might come here and do my duty70 towards my neighbor this afternoon. I’m awfully glad Aunt Lucinda approves of you, Alec.”

“So am I.”

“It really was very good of her to say yes, seeing what disgrace I got into yesterday afternoon.”

Alec looked interested. “Go on,” he said.

Blue Bonnet’s eyes were dancing. “Well,” she began, “yesterday was ‘tea day.’”

“Was what?”

“‘Tea day,’” Blue Bonnet repeated. “You see, every one of those six girls was bound to ask me back in turn, and return; they’re all over now but one. At first, it was fun—the going, you know; and then,” Blue Bonnet leaned forward confidentially, “it got kind of monotonous. There were just the same girls, and we did the same things. Then, yesterday morning, Amanda’s invitation came for next Friday. Alec, after I got started yesterday afternoon, I couldn’t for the life of me remember whether it was Amanda’s turn this week and Debby’s next, or Debby’s this time and Amanda’s next. Amanda’s house came first and I saw Sarah going up the steps, so I turned in there. I’d reasoned it out by that time that it was Amanda’s turn—Amanda’s the sort of girl to come tagging along towards the end. Mrs. Parker came to the door. I thought she seemed rather surprised; she didn’t look very partified. I said I hoped I wasn’t too early.71 She asked me into the parlor, and that didn’t look very partified either. Pretty soon Sarah came down with Amanda, and they both had their hats on! Alec, if I’d only had sense enough to keep still!—but I just plumped down on the sofa and began to laugh. All I could think of was that I was too early—a whole week too early!”

Alec leaned back, shaking with laughter. “Elizabeth,” he declared, “you’re better than a tonic!”

“The worst of it was,” Blue Bonnet said, “that I tried to explain. It seemed awfully funny to me at the time; but when I told about it at home, Aunt Lucinda couldn’t see anything funny in it. There was a laugh in Grandmother’s eyes, though,—only she didn’t mean me to see it.”

Alec rose. “I think Norah’s gone upstairs now; suppose we go make some of that pinochie you’ve been talking about?”

They found the kitchen empty. Alec went down cellar for the nuts, first showing Blue Bonnet where the brown sugar, butter, and cream were kept.

“I haven’t made candy before since I came East,” Blue Bonnet said, as the pleasant odor of the melting sugar and butter filled the kitchen.

“I daresay there’s a lot of things you used to do you haven’t been doing,” Alec answered.

“And some I have been—that I used not to do on the ranch. Alec, do you like school?”

“I don’t mind it.”

72 “Do you suppose anyone really likes it?”


“Sarah says she does—Sarah always does seem to like doing disagreeable things. Kitty says she has a perfect talent for making herself uncomfortable.”

“Kitty’s talent lies more in the direction of making other people uncomfortable,” Alec laughed.

“I like Kitty!”

“So do I.”

“It isn’t the lessons I mind,” Blue Bonnet said, stirring her candy slowly; “but it’s horrid staying indoors so much. At home I used to study out-of-doors in fine weather.”

By the time the candy was done, Norah had come down again, grumbling good-naturedly over their invasion of her kitchen.

“You’ll stay to supper, Elizabeth?” Alec asked, as they took the candy out to the shed to cool; and Blue Bonnet accepted the invitation as frankly as she would have given it in like case.

“Grandfather’s in Boston,” Alec said. “I say, Norah’ll make us flapjacks. And you’ll let us have them out here, won’t you, Norah?—where we can have them right hot from the griddle.”

“In the kitchen, Master Alec?” Norah exclaimed.

“It’ll be lovely,” Blue Bonnet declared; “I’ve always wanted to eat in a kitchen—like I’ve read about doing.”

73 Alec drew forward a small round table. “I used always to have my supper at this,” he said, “before I got big enough to dine with Grandfather.”

Blue Bonnet was looking on with interested eyes; watching Norah stir up the batter, and Alec, as he came and went from the dining-room, bringing the dishes and old-fashioned silver syrup-pitcher.

“Oh, dear!” she cried suddenly. “There’s a knock—I feel it in my bones that it’s for me.”

“It’s Delia, Miss,” Norah said, opening the door; “she says as how Miss Clyde thinks you must’ve forgotten how late it is.”

“Look here, Elizabeth,” Alec told her, “you tell Delia to tell your aunt that you simply can’t come now—that the flapjacks are all ready.” And Blue Bonnet obeyed literally.

Supper over, she and Alec went back to the library; where Alec piled the logs high in the great fireplace, and drew the heavy crimson curtains, shutting out the night. He was whistling as he did so, and suddenly Blue Bonnet came toward him.

“Oh,” she cried, “do you know that?”

“Know what?”

“‘All the Blue Bonnets Are Over the Border’?”

By way of answer, Alec turned to the piano and struck a few chords; then, in spite of his hoarseness, he sang with considerable expression—

“‘March! March! Ettrick and Teviotdale!
Why, my lads, dinna ye march forward in order?
March! March! Eskdale and Liddesdale!
All the blue bonnets are over the border.’”

Blue Bonnet’s cheeks were glowing. “Now whistle it again,” she begged.

“Uncle Cliff used always to whistle it,” she explained, when Alec had done so. “That’s how I could tell he was coming at night. I would go to meet him as soon as I heard it.”

“But why did he always choose that tune?”

“Oh, I reckon he liked it. Alec, I wish you knew Uncle Cliff.”

“So do I. What is he like?”

“He’s big and strong and good, and he’s never cross with me.”

“Grandfather’s ‘big and strong and good, and he’s never cross with me.’ All the same, he’s terribly disappointed, and so am I.”

“Why?” Blue Bonnet asked.

“He wanted me to enter West Point. Grandfather’s a West Pointer.”

“And you can’t?”

“How could I pass?”

“You mean you’re not—?”

“Strong enough? Yes.”

“So you’re a disappointment, too,” Blue Bonnet said slowly; “but you can’t help it, and I—”

“What are you talking about?”

75 “Never mind. There, I think that’s Delia again. I’ll have to go this time.”

“I wish I could go over with you,” Alec said, as Blue Bonnet slipped into her mackintosh, drawing the hood over her head. “It’s been awfully jolly having you here. Wait, you’re going without your share of the candy.”

“I’ve had a lovely time,” Blue Bonnet said. “It’s been so delightfully different from all those other tea-parties.”

“At any rate, you didn’t get here ‘too early,’” Alec answered.

As she stopped in the entry at home to take off her cloak and rubbers, Blue Bonnet hoped that Aunt Lucinda was not going to be difficult. It had been such a pleasant afternoon.

But only Mrs. Clyde sat before the fire in the sitting-room; there was nothing equivocal in her smile of greeting.

“Were the flapjacks good?” she asked.

“I should think they were.” Blue Bonnet came to sit on the hearth-rug beside Grandmother; Aunt Lucinda disapproved of her sitting on the floor, but Grandmother never seemed to mind.

“I suppose there was maple-syrup, too?” Mrs. Clyde said.

“Rivers of it. And we had them in the kitchen; and, Grandmother, it was all perfectly delightful.”

76 Mrs. Clyde smiled comprehendingly. “Almost it makes one wish one were fifteen again, and could have flapjacks and maple-syrup for supper—in the kitchen.”

“Grandmother,” Blue Bonnet’s eyes were fixed on the softly glowing pine logs, “is a person to blame—for being afraid—when she can’t help it?”

“Afraid—of what, dear?”

“Doing something.”

“Something that ought to be done, Elizabeth?”

“I don’t think it really—ought to be done, Grandmother.”

“Then it isn’t a question of mere right, or wrong, dear?”

“I don’t think so, Grandmother.”

“Is it physical fear?”

“I—think so.”

“Who is the person, Elizabeth?”

“Me, Grandmother,” Blue Bonnet answered, with more frankness than grammar.

“You, Elizabeth!”

“Oh, dear! You’re just like Uncle Cliff! He said ‘afraid’ was an odd word for an Ashe to use.”

“And for a Clyde, Elizabeth.”

“I know! I reckon I’m a disgrace to the family; but I can’t help it, Grandmother.”

“Suppose you tell me what it is that you are77 afraid of, dear—and let me see what I think about that.”

“I can’t tell you, Grandmother.”

“Then how am I to help you?”

“You can’t—no one can.”

“Not even yourself?”

“Myself least of all, Grandmother.”

“Have you tried? And, dear, have you asked help?”

“No, Grandmother,” the girl answered slowly. “I—I don’t know why it had to come to me—I used not to be afraid of—anything.”

Mrs. Clyde smoothed the girl’s hair back from her flushed, troubled face. “If you would only tell me, dear.”

“I can’t,” Blue Bonnet rose; “I reckon I’ll go to bed now. Good-night, Grandmother. Where’s Aunt Lucinda?”

“Lying down; she has a bad headache. Good-night, Elizabeth.”

Upstairs before her aunt’s door, Blue Bonnet hesitated a moment; then she knocked softly.

“Come in,” Miss Clyde called.

“Grandmother told me you had a headache, Aunt Lucinda,” Blue Bonnet said; “I hope it’s better.”

“It will be by to-morrow. You have had a pleasant afternoon, Elizabeth?”

“Lovely, Aunt Lucinda; I staid to supper, you78 know. Alec is a very satisfactory sort of friend. Aunt Lucinda, don’t you think boys really do make more comfortable chums than girls—in the long run?”

“In your case, my dear, I would much prefer to see you making a companion of Sarah Blake. Alec is a very nice boy; but in his way, he is quite as undisciplined as you are yourself.”

“I reckon that’s why we took to each other right off, Aunt Lucinda.”

“My dear, that is not a remarkably elegant way in which to express your meaning.”

“Maybe not, Aunt Lucinda—but it expresses it all right.”

And Miss Clyde, not feeling equal for further discussion, let the matter drop for the time being.

Blue Bonnet ran hurriedly downstairs and out to where Kitty and Solomon were waiting for her in the garden. It was the Saturday after her tea with Alec, and the three were off for a long walk. Blue Bonnet had quite forgotten in these days that she hated walking.

They went out on the old turnpike, which stretched ahead of them, straight and level, for miles.

“Don’t you love Saturday afternoon, Kitty?” Blue Bonnet asked, throwing a stick for Solomon to chase.

79 “Pretty well.”

“And hate Monday morning?” Blue Bonnet added.

“I don’t think I do.”

“Kitty, what’s that little house ’way over there?” Blue Bonnet pointed to a low, weather-stained building far over to the left.

“That’s the Poor Farm,” Kitty answered.

“Why do you call it the ‘poor’ farm? I thought most of the land around here was pretty good?”

Kitty collapsed on to a big stone by the side of the road to laugh, and, as soon as she could, explain.

Blue Bonnet was much interested. “Let’s go there,” she suggested.

Kitty looked surprised. “Why should we? I don’t think I should like it.”

“Have you ever been?” Blue Bonnet asked.

“Certainly not.”

“Well, I’m going,” Blue Bonnet declared; “that’s the worst thing about you Woodford girls, you never want to do anything that you never have done.”

“We do too,” Kitty exclaimed; she got up and followed Blue Bonnet.

There were fences to climb and several wide fields to cross before they reached the narrow lane leading down to the bare, lonely old house, in which the town sheltered its few indigent poor.

80 An old man sitting at one end of the long piazza nodded a greeting to them.

“Good afternoon,” Blue Bonnet said, stopping.

“You come from Woodford?” the old man queried.

“Yes,” Blue Bonnet said, “we’ve been taking a walk; it’s a beautiful day for walking.”

“You be Doctor Clark’s daughter,” the man said, looking at Kitty; “I mind seeing you ride by with your father. What’s your name?” he turned to Blue Bonnet.

“Bl—Elizabeth Ashe.”

“She’s from Texas,” Kitty told him.

Into the old man’s faded eyes crept a look of wonder. “Texas! That do be a long ways off! More’n a day’s journey, I guess?”

“More than that,” Blue Bonnet laughed.

“Come on, Elizabeth,” Kitty urged in an undertone.

But Blue Bonnet lingered a moment; understanding, as Kitty did not, the little touch of interest their stopping had brought into the old man’s lonely day.

“That was Mr. Peters,” Kitty said, when at length Blue Bonnet had yielded to her repeated nudgings. “How could you stay so, Elizabeth?”

“I think he liked it. Kitty, mustn’t it be awful to be so old and—outside of everything?”

81 “He was outside of the house,” Kitty laughed. “What do you mean by everything?”

“I reckon you know all right,” Blue Bonnet answered.

Kitty glanced about her. “My, isn’t it the dreariest place!”

Blue Bonnet looked at the broad stretch of open fields, backed in the distance by a low range of hills. For the moment the sun had gone behind a cloud, and the fields lay gray and bleak in the sombre light. To Blue Bonnet, the broad, level stretch had an attraction all its own.

“I like it,” she said.

“Well, I don’t,” Kitty declared. “Do hurry, Elizabeth, we’re a long way from home.”

A little further up the lane, they met an old woman sitting on a broken-down bar of fencing, her arms full of golden-rod. To Kitty’s dismay, Blue Bonnet stopped again. “You like flowers, don’t you?” she said.

Across her sheaf of yellow blossoms the old woman smiled up at her. “Yes, deary, and these—they’re most as good as sunshine in a room.”

Whereupon Blue Bonnet, attracted by something in the old woman’s manner, sat down beside her. “Do you live around here?” she asked.

The wrinkled face inside the big calico sunbonnet quivered. “Me? I live back yonder,” the82 woman said, with a little nod in the direction of the poorhouse. “Where do you live?” she added hastily.

“Oh, I’m staying in Woodford,” Blue Bonnet answered.

“No, you’re not,” Kitty murmured impatiently; “you’re staying anywhere and everywhere out of it—that you can.”

“I ain’t been in to Woodford for quite a spell now,” the old woman said. “’Tain’t much use going to a place, where there ain’t anyone there going to be glad to see you.”

“Where are your folks?” Blue Bonnet asked sympathetically.

“Dead and gone, deary; dead and gone. Old Mrs. Carew, she was the last of ’em. She was second cousin to me—I’d been staying with her for quite a spell. When she died, seems like I didn’t have anywheres else to go.”

“Oh,” Kitty cried, “you’re Mrs. Prior!” She remembered the hot wave of indignation that had swept through Woodford over Mrs. Carew’s neglect to provide for her poor old relative.

“Yes, I’m Mrs. Prior,” the other answered. “It used to be a pretty well-thought-of name ’bout here—Prior.”

“If you had friends in Woodford, would you go to see them?” Blue Bonnet asked.

“Indeed I would, deary. It do get a bit lonesome,83 never going nowhere. And—it ain’t ’s if I hadn’t been used to things different.”

“Will you come and see me?” Blue Bonnet asked impetuously.

Mrs. Prior gasped. So did Kitty, though not from the same reason. Kitty was thinking of Miss Clyde.

“Elizabeth,” she said hurriedly, “we must go.”

But Blue Bonnet waited to lay a hand on one of the old woman’s workworn ones. “When will you come?” she asked.

“We—Wednesday’s the day, deary.”

“Then come next Wednesday—and to supper. Good-bye until then.”

“But, deary,” Mrs. Prior called after the two retreating figures, “you ain’t told me where to come to. Nor what your name is.”

Blue Bonnet laughed. “I’m Elizabeth Ashe; I’m staying with my grandmother, Mrs. Clyde. Do you know where the Clyde place is?”

Mrs. Prior drew herself up. The Clyde place! And she was invited there to supper!

“Well,” Kitty exclaimed the moment they were out of earshot, “whatever possessed you to go and do that, Elizabeth Ashe! A nice scrape you’ve got yourself into! What do you suppose your aunt will say?”

Blue Bonnet stopped short. “I never once thought of Aunt Lucinda!”



It was characteristic of Blue Bonnet that she told of that invitation the moment she entered the sitting-room, on her return.

Blue Bonnet was growing fond of the large, rather formal sitting-room. Best of all, she liked it at this hour; with the twilight coming on, and with only the firelight filling the room, softening everything.

“Aunt Lucinda,” she said now, coming to a halt just inside the doorway, “I’ve invited company to supper for Wednesday. Mrs. Prior, from the town farm. She said she hadn’t any friends nor anywhere to go, and I felt so sorry for her that I asked her to come and see me.” Blue Bonnet paused, out of breath.

From her side of the fireplace, Mrs. Clyde cast a swift glance of amusement at her daughter.

“Go and take your things off, Elizabeth,” Miss Lucinda said; “then come and explain.”

It was a rather subdued Blue Bonnet who reentered the room a moment or two later, and drew a stool up close to Mrs. Clyde’s chair.

“Elizabeth,” her aunt said quietly, “first of all,85 I should like to know what you were doing at the town farm?”

“We were out on the turn-pike, Aunt Lucinda, and I saw the house—and we went over. Kitty didn’t want to go.”

“Kitty was quite right.”

“We didn’t go in, Aunt Lucinda. We met Mrs. Prior up the road. She is a very nice old lady. She was so pleased when I asked her. It must be very tiresome, having nowhere to go.”

“Mrs. Prior,” Mrs. Clyde said thoughtfully; “why, you remember her, Lucinda? I always did think Hannah Carew treated her shamefully.” She laid a hand lightly on Blue Bonnet’s head for a moment. “That was a very kind impulse, Elizabeth. I think we must try to make this second tea-party of yours a success.”

Blue Bonnet laid her head down on Grandmother’s knee with a little sigh of relief.

“Yes,” Miss Clyde said gravely; “but hereafter, Elizabeth, I would like to have you consult either your grandmother or myself before inviting strangers to the house.”

“Yes, Aunt Lucinda,” Blue Bonnet answered; the next moment, with recovered spirits, she was giving her grandmother an account of her walk.

“Far too long a walk,” Miss Lucinda said presently; “it was almost dark before you reached home, Elizabeth.”

86 “That’s because we stopped to talk,” Blue Bonnet explained; “Kitty didn’t want to stop.”

Miss Clyde smiled slightly. “I begin to think I have been wronging Kitty.”

“I don’t believe she’d have minded—only she thought it tiresome,” Blue Bonnet remarked.

Tuesday afternoon Blue Bonnet came home from school in high spirits. “Amanda Parker’s aunt—she lives on a farm, Aunt Lucinda—has invited Amanda and all of us girls out to supper to-morrow,” she announced. “She’s going to send the hay wagon in for us; we’re to start from Amanda’s right after school. I can go, can’t I, Aunt Lucinda? Oh, I do hope it will be pleasant.”

“You are invited for to-morrow, Elizabeth?” Miss Clyde asked.

“Yes, Aunt Lucinda.”

Miss Clyde waited a moment; then she said, “I think you must have forgotten, Elizabeth, that you have a guest coming to supper to-morrow.”

“Oh!” Blue Bonnet exclaimed; without another word, she turned and went to her practising.

Very stormy were the chords that sounded through the quiet house for the next ten minutes, and the time kept deplorable; but for once, Miss Clyde let these irregularities pass unnoticed.

Just before dusk Blue Bonnet ran down to tell Amanda that she could not go. Her coming87 was received with shouts of acclamation by the group of girls gathered on the Parker front porch.

Blue Bonnet went straight to her point. “I can’t go,” she said.

“You can’t go!” Kitty cried; “I do think Miss Clyde might—”

“It isn’t Aunt Lucinda. I—I’ve got company coming.”

“Bring her along,” Amanda said. “One more won’t count. Is she from Texas?”

“No,” Blue Bonnet began, “she’s—”

“See that she wears her old clothes,” Ruth interrupted; “we’re going to sit right down in the bottom of the wagon.”

“But—” Blue Bonnet commenced again.

“She won’t mind that, will she?” Debby asked anxiously.

“She—” Blue Bonnet was getting desperate.

“Be sure you both bring plenty of wraps,” Sarah interposed; “it’ll be cold coming home.”

“Will you listen to me!” Blue Bonnet stamped a foot impatiently. “It’s old—”

Instantly, Kitty had flown at her and was shaking her vigorously. “Elizabeth Ashe, didn’t I try to keep you from going over there Saturday afternoon? And you would go! And you would do it! And now—” she turned to the rest indignantly. “It’s that old Mrs. Prior—over at the88 Poor Farm. Elizabeth invited her to come to supper to-morrow!”

“Mrs. Prior!” Amanda was the first to speak.

“You see, I couldn’t very well bring her along,” Blue Bonnet said.

“No,” Amanda agreed.

“Did you really ask her to supper, Elizabeth?” Debby Slade asked wonderingly.

“Indeed she did,” Kitty exclaimed. “I only hope, Elizabeth, you got the scolding you deserved when you got home!”

“Well, I didn’t,” Blue Bonnet answered quickly.

“Oh, dear,” Amanda said regretfully, “I wish we could put it off, Elizabeth; but Aunt Huldah’ll be expecting us—and there wouldn’t be time to let her know.”

“There’s plenty of time to let Mrs. Prior know,” Kitty cried; “we’ll put her off. You and I’ll go out there to-morrow noon and tell her, Elizabeth. If we hurry all we can, there’ll be time enough.”

But Blue Bonnet shook her head, “I wouldn’t do it—for fifty rides. You saw how pleased she was, Kitty!”

“But she could come some other time,” Kitty persisted.

“She’s coming to-morrow,” Blue Bonnet declared; “I must go back now—good-night, all of you.”

“I’m coming, too,” Sarah said; and they went89 up the street together. At the parsonage gate, Sarah waited a moment before going in. “That was very nice of you, Elizabeth,” she said a little hesitatingly. “No one ever expected that Mrs. Prior would have to go to the poorhouse. She felt it dreadfully.”

Blue Bonnet glanced slowly up and down the village street, with its air of simple prosperity and homely comfort. Here and there, lights were flashing out through the twilight, mothers were calling their children home. “How could you all let her go?” she asked.

“Why, she had to!”

“But why?”

Sarah shook her head. “I don’t know, I’ve never thought much about it—there wasn’t anywhere else for her to go, I suppose.”

“Why wasn’t there?”

Sarah shook her head again. “What queer questions you do ask, Elizabeth!”

Blue Bonnet went on up the street to her own gate; there she met Alec. “Bet you a big apple you’ve been down to Amanda’s,” he said.

“Yes—to tell her I can’t go.”

Alec whistled. “Wouldn’t Miss Clyde—”

“Why do you all light on Aunt Lucinda the first thing?” Blue Bonnet interrupted. “I’ve got company coming—that’s all.”


90 “A friend.”

“Where from?”

Blue Bonnet’s eyes danced. “The Poor Farm,” she answered, then ran on up the path without waiting to explain.

“Well,” Kitty said to her the next morning the moment they met, “what’ve you been doing now?”

“Coming upstairs,” Blue Bonnet replied. She tossed her books down on her desk. “Do you know your Latin, Kitty?”

“I guess so.”

“I don’t; I was planning a beautiful home for old Mrs. Prior last night instead of studying.”

“Bother Mrs. Prior!” Kitty felt that the afternoon’s outing was shorn of half of its attraction. “Elizabeth,” she said, “I’d like to shake you.”

“You did last night,” Blue Bonnet answered; “I’d advise you not to try it again.”

“You are the provokingest girl!” Had it been Sarah who had elected to devote her afternoon to Mrs. Prior, Kitty could have borne it bravely.

Blue Bonnet had pulled out her Latin grammar and was hurriedly going over her lesson. Latin came the first thing after opening exercises; and Miss Rankin believed in thoroughness quite as firmly as did Aunt Lucinda; indeed, it seemed to Blue Bonnet that Miss Rankin and Aunt Lucinda were kindred souls.

91 Recess that morning was rather a trial to Blue Bonnet. Talk of the coming outing was the only topic in the “We are Seven” set. It was hard to feel out of it all. Moreover, Kitty would not count the cause lost; she coaxed and teased, scolded and reproached, until Blue Bonnet’s patience gave way.

“You talk as if I didn’t want to go!” she protested.

“If you did, you would,” Kitty declared, “only you care more for a tiresome old—”

“She isn’t tiresome, and she can’t help it if she is old. You’ll be old yourself some day—there’s no danger of your dying young, Kitty. And—and you all say it was a shame—her being sent to the poorhouse. If it was a shame, why didn’t someone prevent it? Then I wouldn’t have had to ask her to supper and lose my fun.”

Which form of reasoning was too much for Kitty. Before she could think of a suitable retort, the bell had rung and Miss Rankin was requesting Elizabeth Ashe and Kitty Clark to come to order.

Blue Bonnet was unusually prompt in getting home that noon; and equally slow about returning. Being just a little late to school did not worry Blue Bonnet in the least.

During the afternoon Kitty buried the hatchet, forwarding a note by Ruth and Debby, in which she had written—“Never mind, I’ll get Amanda92 to ask her aunt to ask us all again—and I’ll take good care that you don’t go within a mile of the town farm for a week beforehand.”

To which Blue Bonnet promptly wrote her answer, showing less discretion in her manner of doing it than Kitty had done.

“Elizabeth,” Miss Rankin asked, “what are you doing?”

“Writing a note, Miss Rankin,” the girl answered promptly.

“To whom?”

“That isn’t a fair question, Miss Rankin.”

Miss Rankin waived that point. “You may read it aloud, Elizabeth,” she said.

There was an instant hush. Blue Bonnet could and did break the rules in an easy-going, light-hearted way; but the little manœuverings and concealments in which many of the girls were adepts had never seemed to her worth while. And now she had been caught red-handed, writing a note!

“I am waiting, Elizabeth,” Miss Rankin said sharply.

Blue Bonnet’s color had risen. “All right,” she answered clearly.

There was another moment of waiting; then Miss Rankin said, “Elizabeth!”

“Yes, Miss Rankin?”

“I told you I was waiting!”

And again Blue Bonnet answered—“All right.”

93 “Elizabeth, bring that note to me at once.” Miss Rankin’s own color had risen.

There was a sudden flash of laughter in the girl’s eyes; going to the desk, she handed Miss Rankin the slip of paper, on which were written those two words—“All right!”

For a moment Miss Rankin did not speak; then she said, “You may remain after school, Elizabeth.”

Blue Bonnet sobered instantly; and presently, as she sat with her geography open before her, she drew a breath of dismay. Aunt Lucinda had said that probably Mrs. Prior would come early, and that she had better come right home as soon as school was out, and now—

It didn’t take Blue Bonnet long to make up her mind; it was a clear case of disobeying either Aunt Lucinda or Miss Rankin; on the whole, she preferred the latter course.

And when Miss Rankin, who played the march for the pupils, came back to her room after dismission, she found a little note on her desk and her bird flown.

“Dear Miss Rankin,”—she read—“I simply can’t stay this afternoon; but I will to-morrow, if you like. Elizabeth Ashe.”

Mrs. Prior was there when Elizabeth reached home. Miss Clyde was out; but Mrs. Clyde had invited the guest upstairs to her own sitting-room,94 where she was doing her best to entertain her; choosing carefully all such topics as could by no roundabout road lead up to the poor old woman’s present place of abode.

Blue Bonnet, coming to sit between the two with her embroidery, learned a rare lesson in tact and gentle courtesy that afternoon. It was pretty to see how, under Mrs. Clyde’s skilful touch, the little woman from the town farm lost her fear and self-consciousness.

Presently she leaned forward, taking Blue Bonnet’s work from her. “You must make the stitches so, deary,” she said.

Mrs. Clyde smiled, “Elizabeth looks upon needle work as a penance, I’m afraid.”

“How beautifully you do it,” Blue Bonnet said admiringly. “I never could learn to make them so even.”

Mrs. Prior flushed with pride; “I was always called a good needle-woman. It’s naught but pleasure to me.”

Blue Bonnet looked down at her brown fingers, slender and pliable, but which as yet had not taken kindly to the needle. “You can do some on mine, if you like,” she suggested. “I should think you’d like a change from your knitting.”

“You watch me, deary—maybe you’ll pick up some ideas that way,” Mrs. Prior answered.

A moment later, Miss Lucinda came in, bringing95 a whiff of the fresh outdoor air Blue Bonnet had been longing for all the afternoon. She saw the girl’s flushed cheeks, the tired droop of her shoulders. “Elizabeth,” she said, “I think Mrs. Prior would like a bunch of our chrysanthemums; they are unusually fine this year.”

In the garden Blue Bonnet found Alec. He knew by now who Blue Bonnet’s company was; Kitty had enlightened him that morning.

“How’s the guest of honor getting on?” he asked.

“Finely.” Blue Bonnet led the way to the sheltered corner of the garden where the chrysanthemums grew. “Got your knife, Alec? I always do forget to bring out the garden scissors.”

Under her direction, Alec cut a great cluster of the big white, yellow, and tawny blossoms.

“Don’t you love them?” Blue Bonnet laid her face caressingly against one of the round feathery balls. “Alec, do you know—Aunt Lucinda isn’t half bad.”

“No, nor even a quarter,” Alec answered; “hasn’t she just invited me to supper?”

They went in together. Delia was setting the table. She brought Blue Bonnet one of the big blue canton jars to fill with chrysanthemums.

“But it isn’t supper-time yet, Delia?” Blue Bonnet asked.

96 “It will be soon, miss,” the other answered; “Miss Clyde ordered supper early for to-night.”

“Then I reckon I’d best go tidy up a bit,” Blue Bonnet said to Alec; “I won’t be long.”

She came down again to find him in the parlor playing old-time songs for Mrs. Prior.

Mrs. Prior seemed to have grown several inches that afternoon. And when, soon after supper, she announced she must be going, and Miss Clyde ordered the carriage, her cup of joy was full.

To Blue Bonnet’s delight, her grandmother suggested that the two young people go too for the drive.

“But come straight home again, Elizabeth,” Miss Clyde added. “Remember, you have not studied your lessons yet.”

Which reminder brought a sudden disquieting remembrance of Miss Rankin to Blue Bonnet’s mind. A remembrance which the brisk ride in the fresh air and Mrs. Prior’s heartfelt thanks for her afternoon’s pleasure soon quieted.

The next morning on her way to school, Blue Bonnet met Miss Rankin. “Good morning,” she said hurriedly. “You—you got my note, Miss Rankin?”

“Good morning, Elizabeth. Yes, I got your note; I have not yet decided what to do about it.”

“To do, Miss Rankin? But I told you I would stay to-day.”

97 “To-day is not yesterday, Elizabeth.”

“Isn’t it just as good?” Blue Bonnet asked so innocently that a gleam of amusement showed in Miss Rankin’s eyes.

“Maybe,” Blue Bonnet suggested, “I’d better explain why it was I couldn’t stay yesterday.”

Miss Rankin answered that she thought so too.

Thereupon, Blue Bonnet told her of that first tea-party in her honor, of her coming home late for it, and of Miss Clyde’s displeasure. “And so, when I was going to have company yesterday, I couldn’t be late again—could I, Miss Rankin?” she asked.

And Miss Rankin, coming closer in this short walk to the real Blue Bonnet than she had in all these weeks the girl had been under her charge, felt herself weakening. “Nevertheless, Elizabeth,” she said, as they reached the schoolhouse, “it must not happen again; and I think it must be this afternoon—for the sake of the precedent.”

Blue Bonnet gave her a quick upward glance of mischief. “‘All right,’ Miss Rankin,” she answered.

On the stairs, she overtook Kitty. “Did you have a good time yesterday?” she asked.

“Immense,” Kitty answered. “But it would have been a good deal—immenser—if you hadn’t ratted, Elizabeth Ashe.”

“I didn’t—I had a previous engagement.”

98 “I hope you had a horribly stupid time.”

“I didn’t! Mrs. Prior was—”

“Now you look here, Elizabeth,” Kitty interrupted, “you needn’t go talking to me about the joys of compensation!”

“I won’t talk to you at all if you don’t behave. Kitty, I’ve been thinking—”

“Glad to hear it,” Kitty observed; “did it come hard, Elizabeth?”

“And I think,” Blue Bonnet went on, “that it would be ever so nice if each of you girls would invite Mrs. Prior to supper in turn.”

“She might come ‘too early,’” Kitty said—“‘a whole week too early.’”

“Kitty! Honestly, don’t you think it would be nice?”

“Nice for whom?”

“For Mrs. Prior. Kitty, you’re just horrid this morning.”

Kitty balanced herself on the edge of her desk. “Sarah,” she called, “just come listen to this!”

Sarah did listen,—Blue Bonnet enlarging upon her theme enthusiastically,—weighing the matter before she spoke, in a fashion that never failed to drive the impatient Kitty frantic.

“There! You’ve looked like you were getting ready to say, ‘ninthly, my dear brothers’ quite long enough, Sarah,” she protested. “Isn’t it the most unheard-of plan?”

99 “I think it is a very nice idea,” Sarah said calmly, “only I’m not sure that it’s at all practical.”

“Practical!” Blue Bonnet cried. “Who wants a thing to be—practical!”

“We’ll talk it over this afternoon after school,” Sarah said.

“I can’t—I’ve got to stay,” Blue Bonnet wailed. “Oh, couldn’t you both stay, too?—then we could talk it over.”

“Elizabeth, are you perfectly daft?” Kitty cried. “I’d like to see what the ‘rankin’ officer’ would say to such a proceeding! What’ve you got to stay to-day for? You stayed yesterday.”

“No, I didn’t,” Blue Bonnet answered; and went on to explain.

Sarah looked shocked; Kitty howled with glee—“Elizabeth Ashe, you’re more fun than a circus! Only I’d advise you not to play that little game again—else you’ll be having an interview with Mr. Hunt.”



Blue Bonnet’s suggestion regarding Mrs. Prior did not win favor with her mates; one or two of them agreed with Sarah that it would be “nice, but—” and after a few fierce protests she let the matter drop.

It was a glorious Autumn, with sharp, stinging nights and mornings, and warm, hazy days. Blue Bonnet spent every available moment—not to mention a good many of the other kind—out-of-doors. And every day, the girl’s thoughts were more and more of the Blue Bonnet Ranch. All unconsciously, the longing to be back on it, to be leading again the old, careless, carefree life, crept into her letters,—bringing much joy to Uncle Cliff, and making Uncle Joe shake his head delightedly.

Not that her days in Woodford were not, in the main, happy ones. She had a knack of getting a good share of all the fun there was going. And there was a good deal going, off and on.

“Elizabeth,” Kitty called after her one Friday afternoon, as they were leaving school, “Amanda and I’ve been concocting such a scheme—we’re all101 going nutting to-morrow afternoon up in the Parker woods—we seven and some of the boys—I guess Alec’ll go.”

Blue Bonnet’s eyes shone. “It will be fun, won’t it?”

“I’m not through yet. We’re going to make it a riding party; all of us ride except Sarah—of course you do. She says she doesn’t like it, but it’s my private opinion that she’s afraid. Anyhow, she can drive—we’ll need some place to put all the baskets.”

“Grandmother hasn’t any saddle-horses,” Blue Bonnet said. At her tone, Kitty glanced round sharply.

“Get one at the livery,” she said. “What’s the matter, Elizabeth? You look—”

“How do I look?” Blue Bonnet demanded.

“Queer. Shall we go round by the livery now, and see about your horse?”

“I don’t believe Aunt Lucinda would like me to. Kitty, I think I’ll drive with Sarah.”

“You’re mighty fond of Sarah all of a sudden!”

“Well, I got fond of you all of a sudden.”

“Come on up to Amanda’s and talk things over,” Kitty proposed, as they came to the corner of the street leading up to the Parkers’.

“I must go on home,” Blue Bonnet answered hurriedly.

“You’re getting dreadfully well-behaved all at102 once, Elizabeth,” Kitty protested; “luckily, it won’t last long.”

“Good-bye,” Blue Bonnet answered. And because she felt herself a coward and despised herself accordingly, she went on up the street at even a brisker pace than usual with head held very high.

Near her own gate, Alec overtook her. “You have been making a speed record,” he laughed; “what’s up?”


“Go tell that to your grandmother! Come on over,” he added as Blue Bonnet halted, her hand on the gate. “It’s baking-day, and our west piazza’s a jolly place this time of the afternoon.”

“I reckon I ought to go study,” Blue Bonnet said; but she went on with Alec.

The Trent west piazza was broad and square; a big hammock hung at either end; there were low, comfortable chairs and one or two tables, littered with books and magazines.

Alec brought out a plate of Norah’s fresh cookies and a dish of apples.

Blue Bonnet leaned back in a big wicker rocker, looking out across the leaf-strewn lawn in silence. Alec watched her wonderingly; something had gone wrong.

“Miss Rankin been cutting up?” he asked.

Blue Bonnet shook her head. “At least, no103 more than usual. Alec, she has a perfect passion for facts.”

“And your supply is not always equal to her demand?”

“Indeed it isn’t. Still, she hasn’t been very uncomfortable to-day.”

“Going to-morrow afternoon?”

“I—don’t know.”

“You don’t know! I thought you’d be pretty keen over it?”

“I’m not.”

Alec tossed her an apple. “That’s a good one; give me your reasons—in exchange.”

“There’s only one; but it’s equally good. I’m not sure that I want to.”

Alec whistled.

“You’re going?” Blue Bonnet asked.

“I was; it’s a pretty ride—a bit rough at the last.”

Blue Bonnet turned, an expression in her eyes that Alec could not understand. He was leaning a little forward, a flush on his thin, eager face.

“I reckon you’re not afraid of—anything, Alec?” she asked.

Alec half laughed. “Yes, I am—of not being able to do all I want to. It’s a beastly bore—not being up to things.”

“Yes,” Blue Bonnet said slowly, thinking that there were worse things than that even. “Here104 comes General Trent,” she added. Blue Bonnet liked the General, liked the old-fashioned courtesy of his manner towards her.

“How are you to-day, Miss Elizabeth?” he asked now, taking the chair Alec offered.

“Oh, I’m always well,” she answered, and regretted her words the moment she had said them.

“And you are getting too fond of Woodford ever to leave it?”

“I’d like to go as far as Boston, now and then, General.”

“Oh, Boston belongs to Woodford.”

“She’ll be going back to Texas one of these days,” Alec said.

The General turned to him. “Brown tells me that Victor hasn’t been out for a day or so, Alec; I thought you rode every day.”

“I mean to, Grandfather.”

The General studied the boy a little anxiously; he had never been able to understand how a grandson of his could be so delicate. Then he turned to Blue Bonnet again. “You must miss your rides, Miss Elizabeth? Come to think of it, I haven’t seen you riding since you came. Can’t you find a horse to suit you here in Woodford?”

“I haven’t tried, General.”

Alec, watching her, saw the girl’s quick color rise. It set him to thinking; to remembering, as his grandfather had, that he had never seen Blue105 Bonnet riding. Of course she did ride—a Texas girl!

“That little mare of Darrel’s,” the General was saying, “she ought to suit you, Miss Elizabeth. Shall I speak to Darrel about her for you? She’d make a fine match for Victor—that would get you out oftener, Alec. Mustn’t get lazy, my boy.”

Blue Bonnet rose hastily. “I must go now. Thank you very much, General—only, please don’t bother.”

“No bother at all—merely a pleasure, Miss Elizabeth,” the General assured her.

“You’re in a tremendous hurry all at once,” Alec said, as he crossed the lawn with her.

Blue Bonnet did not answer. At the top of the stile, she suddenly faced down upon him with flaming cheeks. “Alec, he mustn’t do it—don’t let him!”

“Let who—do what?”

“Your grandfather—I don’t want the horse! I won’t ride her.”

Alec stared up at her. “Why not?”

“Because—I’m afraid!”

“Afraid! you afraid?”

“Yes,” she said. “And that’s the reason I don’t want to go to-morrow. I won’t ride.”

“But why—”

“I told you!”

106 “I mean—Elizabeth, I can’t understand. You have ridden?”

All the color left the girl’s face, her eyes grew wide with some remembered horror. “Yes, I’ve ridden,” she said; “and I’ve seen—others ride.” Suddenly she sat down, her hands over her face; but she was not crying, as Alec at first supposed, only drawing deep shuddering breaths.

“Elizabeth,” he begged, “what is the matter?”

She looked up. “Nothing. You—you’ll tell the General—what I asked you?”


“I reckon you think I’m a coward. Maybe, you won’t want to be friends any more?”


“And—you won’t tell anyone?”

“You know I won’t.”

Blue Bonnet brushed back her hair. “I’ll have to go in now. Oh, dear! I forgot Aunt Lucinda always likes me to report after school. Aunt Lucinda has such a lot of notions.”

“Are you just home from school, Elizabeth?” Miss Clyde asked, when Blue Bonnet appeared indoors.

“No, indeed, Aunt Lucinda, I’ve been over at Alec’s.”

Miss Clyde sighed; it was a very expressive sigh; it seemed to Blue Bonnet that it followed her all the way upstairs. “As if I hadn’t troubles enough of my own without being sighed over,” the girl protested.


107 Blue Bonnet was dusting the parlor the next morning, when Alec came over. He was whistling “All the Blue Bonnets,” and in response she went to one of the open windows.

“Do come in,” she cried; “I’m nearly through.”

“Can’t you come out?”

“I’m afraid not—to stay.” By way of compromise, she sat down on the window sill, while Alec perched opposite on the piazza railing.

“Alec,” Blue Bonnet said emphatically, “I want you to bear me witness that I hate dusting.”

Alec laughed.

“I think the person who invented claw-foot furniture and all those detestable, twisted posts, and so on—ought to be publicly anathematized,” Blue Bonnet declared. “I like nice, plain, light-colored furniture—that don’t show the dust.”

“A pretty house you’d have!”

“I shouldn’t stay in it any more than I could help, anyway.”

“See here, Elizabeth, I haven’t time to discuss social economics—”

“What are they?”

“I’m going to drive you and Sarah in the dogcart this afternoon—that horse of the Blakes isn’t precisely a Maud S.—and it would be too bad if108 you two only got there in time to come home with the crowd.”

“I’m not sure I’m going.”

“I am. A picnic without you wouldn’t be a picnic. With you, it’s pretty likely to be all sorts of a one.”

“Alec, I wish you wouldn’t.” Blue Bonnet’s face was very serious.

“You can’t always have your own way, Miss Ashe.”

“Your grandfather expects you to ride.”

“I’ll go for a turn this morning. Any more objections up your sleeve? It’s a good bit of a pull up there, anyhow.”

“As if that was your real reason!” Blue Bonnet smiled across at him very gratefully.

Alec swung himself down from the railing to the ground. “Half-past two, then; by the way, you’re all to come back to our house to supper.”

There was nothing sober about Blue Bonnet’s smile this time. She went back to her dusting with fairly good grace, doing it so much more carefully than usual that when Miss Lucinda made her customary tour of inspection, there was not a great deal to be gone over.

“Sometimes, Elizabeth,” her aunt said, “I have hopes of making a housewife of you, in the end.”

“I wish you hadn’t, Aunt Lucinda,” Blue Bonnet109 answered soberly; “then perhaps you’d give up trying.”

“Elizabeth!” Miss Clyde said reprovingly.

“I mean it, Aunt Lucinda—truly.”

“You may go to your mending now, Elizabeth.”

Mrs. Clyde had charge of the weekly mending hour; which, in some measure reconciled Blue Bonnet to it.

“Grandmother,” she asked, bringing her work-basket into Mrs. Clyde’s room, “did Mamma like to sew?”

“I am afraid not, dear. She had, as you have, her father’s love of outdoor life.”

Blue Bonnet slipped her darning-egg into the toe of a stocking. “I wish I had known Grandfather. I suppose,” she added, “that Mamma had to learn?”

“Yes, dear; every gentlewoman should know how to use her needle.”

“Was it here she used to learn—in this room?”

“Yes, Elizabeth—sitting in that very chair.”

Blue Bonnet passed a hand gently over the worn arm of the little old-fashioned sewing-chair. The talk between grandmother and granddaughter, during sewing hour, was generally of Blue Bonnet’s mother. Gradually the girl felt herself drawing nearer the mother she remembered rather dimly, coming to know her through the life she had led as a girl in this quiet old house.

110 “Grandmother,” the girl looked up suddenly, “am I really like Mamma? Benita says so—but am I really?”

“Very, Elizabeth.”

“I am glad—I should like to be like Mamma—‘the little Señora,’ they call her at home yet. Grandmother, I wish you could see the ranch!”

“I have seen it, many a time—through your mother’s eyes.”

“You mean, in her letters? Could she make you do that?”

“You shall see for yourself some day, dear.”

“When, Grandmother?”

“Some day.”

Blue Bonnet threaded her needle a little impatiently. “If you were Uncle Cliff, Grandmother,—I’d have those letters right straight off.”

Mrs. Clyde smiled. “And if Uncle Cliff had been like me—?”

“I reckon I haven’t made Uncle Cliff see much in my letters—they’ve been rather—scrappy. I so hate to write letters.”

“Isn’t that a little hard on Uncle Cliff, Elizabeth? Think how he must look for those letters!”

“I reckon I’ll have to make them longer.” Blue Bonnet held up her stocking for inspection.

“Very well done, Elizabeth. I shall make a needlewoman of you yet.”

Blue Bonnet looked dubious. “By the time111 you’ve made ‘a needlewoman’ of me, Grandmother, and Aunt Lucinda’s made ‘a housewife’ of me, I’m afraid there won’t be any of the real me left.”

“No fear of that,” Mrs. Clyde answered. “You know, the owner of the Blue Bonnet Ranch must be an all-round person.”

And somehow, Blue Bonnet quite forgot to mention that she intended to sell as soon as she came of age.

Blue Bonnet was ready and waiting, when Alec came for her that afternoon. “Grandmother let me have my dinner earlier,” she told Alec; “Grandmother is such an accommodating person.” She looked very trig and jaunty in her brown skirt and reefer; her crimson tam-o’-shanter and hair-bow giving her a touch of color.

“I’ll get in back, so as to sit with Sarah,” she said. “We’ll put the baskets in front with you, Alec.”

Grandmother came out to see them off. “Mind you take good care of Elizabeth, Alec,” she warned.

“I will, Mrs. Clyde,” he answered. And then they were off down the drive and out into the broad village street, drawing up in fine style before the parsonage.

It was a gay little company that presently set off; fourteen in all.

112 “But,” Kitty rode up close to the cart, “why aren’t you riding, Elizabeth?”

Alec turned quickly. “I invited her to drive.”


“That you’ll have to guess at; it was before starting, at any rate.”

“And after I had asked her to ride, I know that,” Kitty insisted.

“‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,’” Alec quoted.

“It was after, Kitty,” Blue Bonnet said.

“Then why—” Kitty began.

“You remember your old nickname, Kitty?” Alec broke in—“‘Little Miss Why’?”

“You’re a very puzzling sort of girl, Elizabeth Ashe,” Kitty said. “I know you’ve got some sort of a reason in the back of your mind.”

“Well, if I have, I’m going to keep it there,” Blue Bonnet answered. Her cheeks were hot. For the next quarter of a mile, she sat very still, looking back along the road they had come. The riders had gone on ahead.

“Elizabeth,” Sarah said gravely, “it was awfully good of you—it wouldn’t have been very pleasant driving all alone—and I don’t enjoy riding. You see, I understand—if Kitty doesn’t.”

Blue Bonnet moved restlessly. “No, you don’t! It isn’t that, one bit.”

At that moment, Alec carefully steered the cart113 over a particularly businesslike thank-you-marm, and Blue Bonnet’s words ended in a little shriek of laughter.

And after all, they got to the nutting place first,—Kitty’s horse, Black Pete, possessing more years than certainty of temper, having taken it into his head to vary the monotony of the ride by long and frequent rests by the roadside.

It was a merry afternoon, and a profitable one as well; for the baskets went home well laden. Going back the party kept together, arriving at Alec’s house in the early twilight, tired, happy, and, above all else, hungry.

“Grandmother,” Blue Bonnet said that evening, “did you ever want to do something for somebody very, very much?”


“I wish I could do something for Alec.”

“Why, dear?”

“Oh, because—”

“I am not sure that you are not doing something for him, Elizabeth. General Trent was saying only this afternoon how much brighter and happier he had seemed lately.”

“Oh, I don’t mean that! I mean something very particular.”

“You can do something for me, Elizabeth,” Miss Clyde said. “I met Miss Rankin this afternoon;114 and she gave me a most discouraging report of your school work.”

“I don’t think I altogether like Miss Rankin,” Blue Bonnet observed.

“That is hardly to the point, Elizabeth.”

“But you can do better when you like a person, Aunt Lucinda.”

“Suppose you try the doing better first, and see if the liking does not follow?”

“I do try,” Blue Bonnet said, “Miss Rankin is so very tiresome—I hate details, and doing everything by rule.”

“My dear, you do not need to tell me how much you dislike all method,” Miss Clyde answered.

The next evening, when sitting alone with her grandmother in the twilight, Blue Bonnet, of her own will, took up the subject again. “I am falling behind, Grandmother,” she said; “I’ve had a lot of failures lately. I do study every night, too; but I seem always to get all the stupid questions that aren’t interesting enough for the answers to stick in one’s mind.”

“There is only one remedy, Elizabeth. You do not want all these Eastern girls to get ahead of you?”

“I don’t believe I care, Grandmother. What does it matter?”

“It matters this, Elizabeth; that this is the thing115 you are to do now; and to do it to the best of your ability.”

“Perhaps I am, Grandmother.”

“You do not think that, Elizabeth.”

Blue Bonnet changed the subject. “And, please, when may I have Mamma’s letters?”

“I think I shall say—when you have earned them, Elizabeth.”

The next morning, Blue Bonnet started in with the determination to earn those letters before the week was out. Before the week was out, she had slipped back into her old, careless ways.

The most delightful of companions out of school, in school her example was hardly of the best. She took her failures as lightly as her successes; and seemed more and more disposed to view Miss Rankin’s rules and regulations with good-natured impatience, rather than with respect.

Miss Rankin often wondered if anything would rouse the girl’s dormant sense of personal responsibility; and, wondering, was more than once tempted to put the question to the test; and then a sudden glance from Blue Bonnet’s blue eyes would plead all unconsciously for another trial.

Still, Miss Rankin knew that, sooner or later, matters were bound to come to a climax.

Others knew it too; chief among them Sarah. “Elizabeth,” she said one afternoon, “don’t you think it would be nice if we could study together?”

116 Blue Bonnet was in a perverse mood. “Why?” she asked.

“You know examinations will be coming after a while.”

“Will they—from where?”


They were in the cloak-room, and Blue Bonnet turned in unwonted fierceness. “Sarah Blake, if you dare ‘Elizabeth!’ me in that way again, I’ll—shake you!”

Sarah looked hurt, instead of angry, which only aggravated Blue Bonnet the more.

“I thought—” Sarah began.

“I don’t want to be missionaryized by anybody!”

Sarah drew on her gloves in a silence so expressive as to be almost audible.

“‘Birds in their little nests agree,’” Kitty sang from the doorway.

“Maybe they do,” Blue Bonnet retorted, “but Sarah and I don’t—just now.”

“Come on,” Kitty said.

At the gate, Blue Bonnet turned to Sarah. “I—I’ll be down this evening, if I can.”

“I’ll come too,” Kitty said.

“We’re going to study,” Sarah warned her.

“It’s a class in first aid to the injured,” Blue Bonnet laughed.

“See here, Elizabeth Ashe,” Kitty exclaimed, “you’ve been sailing pretty near to the wind lately.117 I never knew before that Miss Rankin was such a straight descendant of Job’s.”

A week later, in spite of Sarah’s efforts and Kitty’s warnings, the climax came.

It was a dull, bleak day, the last day of October, with a brisk wind sending the falling leaves scurrying in all directions. Blue Bonnet had had a letter from her uncle that morning; a long letter, that had brought the life on the ranch very near. More than ever “the call of the wild” was in her blood that day. She was late for school in the morning; late again, in the afternoon; and the very slight attention she brought to bear upon her work during the earlier part of the day had, by afternoon, diminished almost to the vanishing point.

Her place was by the window, and to the girl, the school-yard walk, with its bordering of tall, bare trees, led not out to the village street, but on and out to the wide, illimitable prairie; and across the prairie to a long, low house, standing like a little island in a wide sea of grass. She could see Benita coming and going from house to kitchen, and Don stretched lazily out on the back veranda.


Blue Bonnet turned, lifting a pair of dreamy, far-away eyes.

“Are you aware that this is the third time I have spoken to you?” Miss Rankin asked.

118 “No, Miss Rankin—I beg your pardon.”

“You may take up the subject where Ruth left off.”

Blue Bonnet glanced uncertainly from Ruth to the open history in Miss Rankin’s hands, and back again.

Ruth’s lips moved ever so slightly; but the movement gave not the faintest clue. Blue Bonnet turned to Miss Rankin. “I am afraid I haven’t any idea where Ruth left off.” There was no real regret in her tone, merely polite apology.

Miss Rankin turned to one of the other girls. “You may answer, Hester.”

And Hester Manly did answer, with a promptness and fullness which should have served as a rebuke to Blue Bonnet. But already the girl’s eyes had gone back to the window. To her, the troubles and trials of George the Second seemed of very little consequence, in comparison with the homesick longings of the owner of the Blue Bonnet Ranch. She was glad that history was the last recitation of the day.

Just before closing time Blue Bonnet, feeling vaguely that something was wrong again, looked up. “Did you speak to me, Miss Rankin?” she asked; and wondered at the sudden ripple of amusement that ran through the room.

Miss Rankin’s lips were drawn until only the faintest line of red showed. “Yes,” she said, “I119 was speaking to you, Elizabeth. You will remain this afternoon to make up your history and English—your Latin you may make up to-morrow afternoon.”

Blue Bonnet raised her eyes in swift protest. It would mean hours! And she had been counting the minutes until she should be free!

But there was no relenting in Miss Rankin’s face. Blue Bonnet watched the rest gathering up books and papers, and making ready to depart, with heart growing more rebellious every moment.

Sarah’s look of pity, Kitty’s shrug of impatience, all the little glances of sympathy, protest, or amusement, only helped to fan still hotter the flame of rebellion in her heart.

It happened that she was the only pupil detained that afternoon; and, as presently the long line of boys and girls filed out to the march Miss Rankin was playing outside in the assembly-room, Blue Bonnet, gathering up her own books, walked deliberately out of the side entrance.

Straight for the big meadow back of her grandmother’s house she made—the meadow that was a very little akin to the prairie. One line to Uncle Cliff, and her way back was open; but stronger still than her homesick longings was the pride that would not let her write that line.

She was sitting on the ground, a little huddled up heap of misery, resisting even Solomon’s120 attempts at comfort and diversion, when Alec came across the meadow.

He stopped short. “How long have you been here? Kitty said you had to stay in.”

“I didn’t stay.”

“Did the Rankin relent?”

“I don’t know.”

“Elizabeth, what have you been doing?”

“I couldn’t stay—not to-day, Alec, I just couldn’t!”

Alec whistled. “I’m mighty afraid there’ll be something doing to-morrow, Elizabeth.”

Blue Bonnet rose. “Of course, I intend to explain to Miss Rankin. Come, Solomon, we must go in.”

At the meadow gate, she halted. “Coming in, Alec?”

“Can’t,” he answered; “I’ve a compo on hand.”

Blue Bonnet studied hard that evening. She meant to have good lessons on the morrow; she would go to Miss Rankin the first thing in the morning.

Unfortunately, she was a little late the next morning; her explanation would have to wait. And then, the moment the opening exercises were over, and the class-room doors closed, Miss Rankin turned to her.

“Elizabeth,” she asked, “didn’t you understand121 yesterday afternoon that you were to remain after school?”

A shiver of something like apprehension ran through Blue Bonnet. “Please, Miss Rankin—” she began.

“Did you, or did you not, understand, Elizabeth?”

Blue Bonnet hated the hushed stillness of the room. “Yes, Miss Rankin,” she said, “I understood—but—”

“You may take your explanation to Mr. Hunt, Elizabeth.”



Mrs. Clyde, sitting at her sewing in her own room, started in surprise as the front door was slammed violently, followed by a quick rush of feet on the stairs.

That the commotion could only be caused by Elizabeth was probable, but what was she doing home from school at this hour?

Going to Blue Bonnet’s room to inquire, she found her tossing the things about in her upper drawer in a wild search for something.

“Elizabeth!” she exclaimed.

“I can’t find my purse, Grandmother.” Blue Bonnet did not turn around.

“Your purse?”

“I want to send a telegram to Uncle Cliff. I—I’m going home.”

Mrs. Clyde sat down on the lounge. “You are going home!”

“Yes, Grandmother.” Blue Bonnet had found her purse at last, and was hurriedly counting its contents. “Uncle Cliff told me I had only to send word and—and—” Dropping suddenly into a chair, Blue Bonnet hid her face in her hands. The123 last barrier her pride had raised had fallen, broken down by that scene of the morning. Her one thought now was to go back. Back to the ranch, where there were no explanations to be made; no Miss Rankins to be displeased with one; no principals to be sent to. She hated it here in the East—hated the life and all it stood—Blue Bonnet caught herself up, remembering the last time she had used those same words.

“Elizabeth,” her grandmother asked, “what has happened?”

Blue Bonnet wiped her eyes impatiently. “Miss Rankin has behaved horridly; and I—came home; I’m never going back!”—the words came punctuated with sobs.

“And what had you done, Elizabeth, to occasion such behavior on the part of Miss Rankin?”

“I—intended to explain. She—wouldn’t listen. She said I—must go to—Mr. Hunt!” Blue Bonnet’s head went down again; the memory of that moment’s humiliation was too much for her.

“She sent you to Mr. Hunt, Elizabeth?”

“Yes, Grandmother; but I didn’t go—I came home.”

“But, Elizabeth, what could you have done, requiring such extreme measures? Come here and tell me about it.”

And Blue Bonnet obeyed.

124 Grandmother listened to the long, rather incoherent story in a silence that Blue Bonnet did not feel to be entirely condemnatory. For Grandmother had the blessed gift of seeing more than one side of a question. Knowing the girl’s inherited love of freedom, remembering her upbringing, she had not the heart to be too hard upon her. And yet, for the girl’s own sake, she could not be too easy.

“And so,” Blue Bonnet ended wearily, “I want to go home. I’m so tired of being ‘trained,’ Grandmother.”

“Tired of it, at fifteen, Elizabeth! When the training has only just begun! But you shall go back—if you really wish to—though the going must be done decently and in order; or you shall stay, and do that which in your heart you know to be right. The decision shall rest with yourself; but remember, Elizabeth, as you decide, so will your whole life be the weaker or the stronger for it.”

“But, Grandmother—even if I could—it’s too late.”

“It is not too late, Elizabeth.”

“Grandmother, I can’t do it!” Blue Bonnet sobbed.

“It will be hard, dear; I do not deny it.”

The girl moved restlessly. “I want to go home.”

“I have said that you may go, Elizabeth. But you are not the girl I think you, if you run away125 in that cowardly fashion. I am going to leave you to decide the matter here and now.”

In her own room, Mrs. Clyde waited rather anxiously for the issue. Whatever the decision, it was likely to be a speedy one. She was glad that Lucinda had chosen this day on which to go to Boston. Lucinda’s methods were a little too strenuous for a case of this kind.

Less than a quarter of an hour later, the front door slammed again. From the window, Mrs. Clyde caught a glimpse of a hurrying figure, a crimson tam-o’-shanter, even more awry than usual. She went back to her sewing with hands that trembled a little. Was it Mr. Hunt, or the telegraph office?

Just before the noon intermission, Mr. Hunt heard a low knock on his door. “Come in,” he called, wheeling round in his chair as Blue Bonnet entered.

“Good morning, Elizabeth,” he said. “Haven’t you been rather a long time getting here?” He had seen Miss Rankin at recess.

Something in his tone, in the grave kindly eyes, gave Blue Bonnet courage.

She came up to the desk. “I—I shouldn’t have come at all, if it hadn’t been for Grandmother. She—she said it would be—cowardly—not to.”

“Ah!” Mr. Hunt said.

“I was going home—to the ranch.”

126 “Rather than face me?”

“It was—the having to come.”

“Suppose you tell me why you had to come?”

“Because I—didn’t stay in yesterday, when Miss Rankin told me to.”

“Why didn’t you, Elizabeth?”

And Blue Bonnet, looking at him with a pair of very frank blue eyes, told him why,—very much as she had told her grandmother.

There was a short silence when she had finished; then Mr. Hunt said, “Elizabeth, do you suppose you are the only one who gets tired, very tired, of the confinement of school work—who longs for the open? What if we were all—Miss Rankin, all the teachers, myself—to drop everything, and go when the fancy seized us?”

“But I don’t,” Blue Bonnet answered; “I’ve never been before school closed, though it’s been pretty hard not to, some days.”

“Yesterday was not the first time you went before you had the right—even though school was over.”

“No,” Blue Bonnet admitted. “You—you know about the other time?”


“But I made that up—and that first time—it didn’t seem very wrong. You see I’ve never been to school before I came to Woodford; and tutors aren’t very—strict. At least, mine weren’t.”

127 “How about the second time, Elizabeth? You must have known then.”

“I couldn’t stay,” Blue Bonnet answered. “I had to get out-of-doors. I think fifteen is rather too late to begin to go to school, after all.”

Mr. Hunt smiled a little. “It is because you are so unused to school routine, and school discipline that we have been very patient with you, Elizabeth. But things cannot go on as they have been doing. Do you want your class to go on without you? If they do, it will not be because you have not the ability but the will to keep up with them.”

“I never thought of that,” Blue Bonnet said.

“I want you to think of it very seriously. And now, what do you suppose I am going to do with you?”

Blue Bonnet caught her breath. Her ideas as to what a principal might or might not be expected to do under the circumstances, were indefinite—and a little disquieting. “I don’t know,” she said.

“I am going to put you on your honor not to disobey in this fashion again; and to try to conform more carefully to all the rules of the school,—which will include, most emphatically, being more punctual. Your record, in that respect, Elizabeth, is decidedly very far from what it should be.”

Blue Bonnet looked exceedingly sober. Being put on her honor meant all to the girl that Mr.128 Hunt had known it would. “I’ll promise, Mr. Hunt,” she said, after a moment or two.

Miss Rankin had had more than one inattentive pupil that forenoon. As the morning went by and Blue Bonnet did not reappear, excitement ran high among the “We are Seven’s.”

“Mean old thing!” Kitty telegraphed to Debby, behind their teacher’s back.

And Debby nodded agreement.

Just before afternoon school, Blue Bonnet came in and went straight to Miss Rankin’s desk. There was a straining of eyes and ears, but nothing was heard of the low conversation that followed. Then, for a moment, Miss Rankin laid a hand on Blue Bonnet’s shoulder,—a most unwonted demonstration.

A moment after, Blue Bonnet turned and came slowly down the aisle to her place.

“Where have you been, Elizabeth Ashe?” Kitty demanded.

“In various places,” Blue Bonnet answered.

“I was just thinking about organizing a relief expedition!”

“For whom?” Blue Bonnet asked. Almost harder than the going to Mr. Hunt had the coming back to class been for her. She had passed the noon hour by herself in the grove back of the129 schoolhouse, doing some of the hardest thinking she had ever done in her life.

The face she wore now was far too serious to suit Kitty’s ideas.

“Was he very—dreadful, Elizabeth?” she asked sympathetically.

“He was—not.”

“You know,” Kitty said thoughtfully, “Mr. Hunt can be rather—awful.”

“How do you know?” Blue Bonnet questioned.

Kitty turned to the rest. “Beginning to sit up and take notice,” she announced demurely.

Mr. Hunt met Miss Rankin in the corridor that afternoon and stopped to speak with her. “Well,” he said, “your young Texan appeared—eventually.”

“So I understand.”

“I don’t believe it will happen again. I have put her on her honor.”

“The best thing you could have done, I think.”

“Poor child!” Mr. Hunt said. “To use a simile peculiarly appropriate in her case, she is not taking very kindly to bit and bridle. Ease up a bit on her, when you can, Miss Rankin.”

“I intend to. Did you send her to me, Mr. Hunt?”

“To apologize? No. That was one of the things I left to her honor.”

130 “Quite safely, as it proved,” Miss Rankin answered. “She is a dear child. I think things will run more smoothly now.”

Blue Bonnet was rather late in getting home from school that afternoon, but two of those lessons had been made up.

At the door, her grandmother met her. “Elizabeth!”

Blue Bonnet looked up. “I reckon it’s all right, Grandmother.”

“You have seen Mr. Hunt, Elizabeth?”

“Yes, Grandmother; he was mighty kind.”

“I am very glad, Elizabeth; but where were you this noon?”

“In the grove. I didn’t want any lunch. Oh, dear!” Blue Bonnet looked up, struck by a sudden thought. “Were you worried, Grandmother?”

“I was a little anxious. You had left me in something of an uncertainty, you remember.”

“I reckon you knew how it would come out, Grandmother. I wonder will I ever learn to think of everything?”

“I think you are learning to think of a good many things, dear. Now you must have some lunch, and then go for a brisk walk.”

“I was going to study.”

Mrs. Clyde kissed the pale face. “You will do all the better work after you have had some fresh air. It has not been the lack of time but the131 lack of attention that has made all the trouble, dear.”

As Blue Bonnet and Solomon came down the drive a little later, they met Alec at the gate. “Halloa,” he said, “you’re not running at your usual speed! Where are you headed for?”

“I’m only going for a walk.”

“I’m your man, then. We’ll go out on the turnpike.”

It was rather a silent walk at first. Once out on the turnpike, Blue Bonnet’s spirits began to revive.

“Oh, but I am glad to-day is nearly over!” she said fervently.

“What’ve they been doing to you, anyway?” Alec exclaimed indignantly. He was not in Blue Bonnet’s room at school, but Kitty had given him a graphic account of the day’s happenings.

Blue Bonnet pulled off her tam-o’-shanter, letting the fresh wind blow through her hair. “Nothing,” she answered; “they left all the doing to me.”

As she spoke, a man on horseback passed them at a swift gallop. Instantly the girl turned, looking after him with eager eyes. He was riding as the men at home rode.

“That was Darrel,” Alec said, “and the mare.”

Blue Bonnet’s color deepened. “She is like—Firefly. Alec, if one might have her three wishes—or, even one!”

132 “What would you choose?” Alec asked. He knew what his choice would be—and he would be content with the one wish, too, if only it brought him the strength he craved.

Blue Bonnet was standing quite still, looking off along the turnpike. “Courage,” she answered; “first, last, and always!”

She came home still in subdued mood, coming to sit with grandmother in the twilight, with a little involuntary sigh of relief that to-night they two were alone together.

“So you are going to stay with us, Elizabeth,” Mrs. Clyde said, “and try to make yourself ready to go back?”

“Yes, Grandmother.”

“Is the staying very hard, dear?”

“I am so homesick, Grandmother. Not all the time; but lately. I like it here and being with you—and Aunt Lucinda; and knowing Alec and the girls. But still I want to go back; and oh, I do want to be called Blue Bonnet!”

“Why, Elizabeth, your uncle wrote that you preferred not to be called Blue Bonnet. Your aunt and I have been very careful to remember.”

“Indeed you have,” Blue Bonnet declared. “I would like to be called it, though, Grandmother—I think I shouldn’t be so homesick, then. And it’s—so hard—to live up to ‘Elizabeth.’”

133 “I would do a good deal more than that, dear, to make you content to stay with us.”

“Grandmother, do you mean—you truly like having me here?”

“How can you ask that, dear!”

“But, I’m such a lot of trouble.”

“Trouble that we would not willingly forego.”

Blue Bonnet nestled closer. “I almost wish you didn’t care so much. I shall have to go some day. I—papa would not like me not to.”

“I know, dear; some day you must go back. Only you want to make yourself ready—I do not think you are quite that yet.”

“No—I must get I suppose where I won’t let Benita and the rest spoil me. It’s very pleasant, being spoiled, Grandmother. I never knew how much Benita did for me, until I came here. She always did my hair—she can braid hair beautifully. It hasn’t looked very beautiful lately. I hate braiding hair.”

“It is rather flyaway hair,” Mrs. Clyde smoothed the girl’s head lovingly, “but I don’t think it is quite as flyaway as it was at first.”

“I wish you were going back to the ranch with me,” Blue Bonnet said. “Grandmother, don’t you ever get tired of having the houses so close? Wouldn’t you like to push them back?”

“I don’t know that I would, dear.”

134 “I would,” Blue Bonnet said; then for a while she sat very still, looking into the fire.

Mrs. Clyde was silent also; she was thinking of the other Elizabeth—who had left her at eighteen.

“Grandmother,” Blue Bonnet said sadly, “it’s no use—I sha’n’t ever be ready—really ready. Imagine living on a cattle ranch, and being afraid to ride!”

“Dear—is that the fear you meant that night?”

“Yes, Grandmother.”

“I cannot understand. Your uncle used to write what a fearless little horsewoman you were.”

“I know. Grandmother, I think I should like to tell you—I’ve never told anyone—perhaps, then, I sha’n’t remember it so.”

“Tell me, dear.”

“It’s—I—I saw one of the men—he had been thrown—and dragged—it was horrible! No one knew I saw him—that was last summer—I haven’t been on a horse since.”

“You should have told your uncle at once, dear; keeping it to yourself was the worst thing you could have done.”

“I couldn’t bear to speak of it—I thought I should forget. Then, one afternoon, I went out to mount Firefly—and I—couldn’t. Uncle Cliff used to wonder why I wasn’t riding; he asked me about it one night, and I just up and told him I135 was afraid. That was the time he said ‘afraid’ was an odd word for an Ashe to use.”

“Have you honestly tried to conquer this fear, dear?”

“I haven’t tried to ride since that first time—after I had seen—that. It wouldn’t be any use. I can’t ride, Grandmother. That’s why I couldn’t bear to stay on the ranch.”

“Yet you want to go back?”

“Yes, I want to go back—even if I can’t ride. I reckon I’ll have to drive.”

“You are not afraid to drive?”

“No; at least, I haven’t been here.”

Mrs. Clyde laughed. “I daresay our Woodford horses do seem a bit tame. I wish, dear, I had some real comfort to give you. Perhaps, in time—”

“I’m more afraid now than I was at first,” Blue Bonnet answered. She rose as Delia came in to light up. “I’m going to study mighty hard to-night, Grandmother. You’re going to have the star pupil for a granddaughter after this.”

When Blue Bonnet went up to bed that evening, she found a little bundle of letters, smelling of lavender, lying on her dressing-table.

Her first thought was to sit down and read them then and there; but, with a little resolute shake of the head, she made herself get quite ready for bed136 first; then, wrapping a gaily striped Mexican blanket about her, she curled herself up on the foot of her bed, the letters in her lap.

And so vivid were they, so dear and familiar the scenes they portrayed, that presently the girl had forgotten time and place, and was feeling the prairie wind on her face; seeing the swaying of the tall grass; hearing the sounds of the ranch life—rejoicing in the freedom of it all.

In one of the letters, she found a few dried blue bonnets—the letter in which her mother had written of her coming.—“And she is to be called Blue Bonnet, our little prairie flower, with her eyes just the color of the blue bonnets growing wild and thick in the prairie grass. Some day, you shall see her, Mother.”

Blue Bonnet’s eyes were wet. And she had said she hated the ranch—had asked not to be called Blue Bonnet! How the memory of those hasty, thoughtless words hurt!


The girl started, and looked around.

Mrs. Clyde stood in the open doorway. “My dear, do you know how late it is?”


“It is after half-past eleven.”

And the rule was that Blue Bonnet’s light must be out by ten. “And I thought I had reformed!” Blue Bonnet said. “But, Grandmother, I did make137 myself get all ready for bed first. Well, I reckon you’ll just have to scold me.”

“It is too late even for that,” Mrs. Clyde answered, and hurried the girl into bed. Bending in the dark to kiss her, she said softly, “Good-night, little Blue Bonnet.”

Blue Bonnet woke the next morning with the idea firmly fixed in her mind that the only thing for her to do was to write to her uncle, confessing frankly how honestly she regretted those hasty words of hers, and how very far she was from hating the ranch and everything connected with it.

The Blue Bonnet of yesterday morning would have sat down to the writing of it at once; the Blue Bonnet of to-day dressed and went down to breakfast with a promptness that won her a smile of approval from her grandmother.

After breakfast, there was no time; she was determined not to be late to school that day. But she did write at recess—much to Kitty’s disgust.

“Goodness only knows where you were yesterday at recess, Elizabeth,” she protested, “and to-day you’re—”

“In Texas,” Blue Bonnet finished for her.

“You’re not writing about going back?”

“I am.”

“Elizabeth! When?”

“Not to-day, Kitty. Now do go away—it’s a138 very important letter; it must go out on the noon train.”

It was not a very coherent letter, and there was not time to make it a long one,—but it brought great pleasure to Mr. Cliff. “Looks like we needn’t put the Blue Bonnet Ranch on the market yet awhile, Joe,” he said, after reading it.

Coming in from school that afternoon, Blue Bonnet met Aunt Lucinda in the hall. “Are you just back?” she asked. “And did you have a pleasant time?”

“I came home soon after dinner, Elizabeth. Yes, I had a very pleasant time; but I am glad to be back.” Miss Clyde bent and kissed Blue Bonnet,—not a mere formal kiss of greeting. It brought the quick color to the girl’s face.

“I’m afraid you don’t know—there’s been a good deal happened since yesterday morning, Aunt Lucinda,” she said hurriedly.

“I know all about it, my dear; your grandmother has been telling me. I am much gratified with the outcome, Elizabeth.”

Blue Bonnet smiled up at her aunt. “And you’ll call me Blue Bonnet, too?”

“My dear, I thought—”

“I know—but I was Blue Bonnet at home, you know,—until I was just all round horrid that night—and oh, I do want to be called it now.”

Miss Clyde smiled. “As you like, dear; only I139 think I shall still reserve Elizabeth—for occasions.”

“Oh dear!” Blue Bonnet answered, “I’m afraid it’ll be more ‘Elizabeth’ than ‘Blue Bonnet’ then, Aunt Lucinda.”

“We’ll hope not, dear.” And then Aunt Lucinda actually stooped and kissed Blue Bonnet a second time.



Elizabeth,” Alec asked the next morning, as they were on their way to school, “what was that Mrs. Clyde called you just now?”

“Blue Bonnet. My name is Elizabeth Blue Bonnet Ashe. Alec, I wish you’d call me that, too, instead of Elizabeth.”

“I most certainly will. Are you named after the ranch?”

“Partly; partly after the flower. The Blue Bonnet is our State flower.”

“How jolly! But why on earth haven’t we been calling you that all along?—Blue Bonnet seems much more suitable for you than Elizabeth.”


“You’re awfully fond of that—‘because.’”

“It’s such a convenient word.”

“From your point of view. From mine—it’s rather inadequate. See here, Blue Bonnet, is that why your uncle is so fond of whistling ‘All the Blue Bonnets’?”

“Yes. Whistle it for me right now, please, Alec!”

141 “I guess not.—To think how I’ve been Elizabething you all this time!”

“I’ve never minded your way of saying it—nor Kitty’s; it didn’t sound so very hard to live up to. But when Aunt Lucinda used to say it, in a particular sort of tone she has, it was—depressing. You couldn’t say Blue Bonnet that way, could you?”

“Doesn’t that remain to be seen?” Alec laughed.

The new, or rather the old, name spread like wildfire among Blue Bonnet’s especial friends—Kitty, like Alec, declaring it far more appropriate to its owner than the more formal Elizabeth.

“Oh, Blue Bonnet,” she asked one afternoon a few days later, “had your friend Mrs. Prior to tea lately?”


“Being such an intimate friend, of course you know she’s sick?”

“Kitty, don’t be horrid!—No, I didn’t know it.”

“Papa doesn’t think she’s going to get well. He says he’s never seen anyone more anxious not to.”

“Kitty, how dreadful!”

“I don’t know,” Kitty answered, with unusual gravity; “she hasn’t much to live for.”

Blue Bonnet’s eyes were very pitiful. “And I meant to do so much for her!” She went home in quiet mood. It was like a day in early October,142 rather than November. How could anyone, on such a day, not want to live! She wished she might go out to the town farm; but Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda were making calls, and she must wait until their return to ask permission.

She took her books out to the hammock on the sunny back piazza, finding it even harder than usual to fix her thoughts on her studies; they would wander to the bare old house, out beyond the turnpike.

Alec, coming over, came upon her before she heard him. “Is it a brown study?” he asked. “It looks a little like a blue one.”

“Alec, did you know that poor old Mrs. Prior was sick?”

Alec sat down on the steps. “She isn’t—now. I just met Dr. Clark.”

“Alec, I simply hate myself!”

“What in the world is up now, Blue Bonnet?”

“I meant to be such a friend to her—she said she hadn’t any friends.”

“I think you did your share—you gave her one good time; that’s a whole lot more than any of the rest of us ever thought of doing. And she’s got her friends now, Blue Bonnet,—so don’t you worry.”

Blue Bonnet sighed. “I reckon, Aunt Lucinda would have let me take her some flowers, or something, now and then; but I just forgot all about143 her—after the first. A pretty friend she must have thought me!”

“I daresay she did,” Alec answered. “It strikes me, young lady, you’d better come up out of those depths and get to business.”

Blue Bonnet took up her history. “I’ve read it over three times, and I don’t remember one word of it. It’s very stupid anyhow. Who wants to know about a lot of battles that happened before one was born?”

“Miss Rankin will, for one,” Alec laughed. He got up, whistling to Bob and Ben, who were having a game of tag on the lawn with Solomon. “I’m off. Mind you quit worrying and tend to that history.”

“Grandmother,” Blue Bonnet asked that evening, “may I send some flowers—for Mrs. Prior?”

“Certainly, dear;” and when Blue Bonnet had gone upstairs, Mrs. Clyde turned to her daughter. “It is getting to be ‘may I?’ much more frequently than ‘I’m going to,’ Lucinda.”

“Yes,” Aunt Lucinda agreed; “I really think Blue Bonnet has improved a good deal lately.”

The next day Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda went in to Boston for the night, and Blue Bonnet was allowed to invite Sarah to spend the afternoon and night with her.

Blue Bonnet’s own choice would have been Kitty.144 Sarah accepted the invitation with pleasure. “I’d like to come very much, Blue Bonnet,” she said; “I’ll ask Mother at noon.”

“I’d’ve loved it,” Kitty said; “you’d have a lot more fun, if you’d’ve asked me, Blue Bonnet Ashe.”

“I might have had too much,” Blue Bonnet laughed. “I reckon Aunt Lucinda must have thought so. I’ll try to have you next time, Kitty.”

“Second choice!” Kitty answered.

Blue Bonnet went in with Sarah that afternoon, while she got her things. It was the afternoon of the church sewing society, held this time at the parsonage. Blue Bonnet was much interested in the scene. “Only some of the things aren’t very—pretty,” she told herself. If ever she joined a sewing society,—which it was hard to imagine herself doing—she should insist on making pretty things—they were so much more really important than just necessary ones.

Sarah kept her waiting quite a while. The Blake family was a large one; and Sarah, as the eldest child, was burdened with many cares. It was almost unprecedented, her going away for the night. Quite a small army of protesting children followed her and Blue Bonnet down to the gate.

The moment it had clicked behind them, Blue Bonnet turned to Sarah. “What are they making all those things for?”

145 “They’re getting a box ready.”

“A box?”

“Dear me, Blue Bonnet, don’t you understand?” and Sarah explained.

“Where is it going?” Blue Bonnet asked.

“I think—why, Blue Bonnet, it’s going to Texas!”

“I wish I could go in it,” Blue Bonnet said wistfully.

“You’d take up too much room; and you wouldn’t get much fresh air on the way.”

“Whom is it going to?”

“A Rev. Mr. Judson, I think; he’s a church missionary, and very poor. They’ve a lot of children.”

“Why don’t they send prettier things?”

“Useful things are much better,” Sarah answered. “Blue Bonnet, let’s—”

“Things can be pretty and useful too,” Blue Bonnet interrupted.

“I guess they’ll be very glad to get it,” Sarah said. “Blue Bonnet, let’s study this afternoon; then we can have the evening to enjoy ourselves in.”

“All right,” the other agreed cheerfully. “But you’ve got to keep strictly to the thing in hand, if you’re going to study with me, Sarah Blake.”

Blue Bonnet’s preparations for studying were146 rather a surprise to Sarah. They consisted of two great chairs drawn close to the broad west window in the dining-room, a dish of apples, and another of cookies. “One can’t work well when one’s hungry,” Blue Bonnet explained. “And one can eat so well when one’s working.”

And, in spite of Sarah’s protests, she was made to occupy one of the big chairs and take one of the big apples, before Blue Bonnet would allow her to open a book.

After that, however, Blue Bonnet settled down to her books bravely. Scarcely speaking, save for a little exclamation of perplexity or impatience, now and then.

Blue Bonnet was trying very hard to remember her promise to Mr. Hunt these days; in consequence, matters at school were running much more smoothly. She did not know how often Miss Rankin, recognizing how earnestly the girl was endeavoring to do her best, helped her over more than one rough place. She did know that she was really getting to like Miss Rankin and to want to please her.

“I suppose,” she said, laying the last book down with a long breath of relief, “that she’s an acquired taste—like olives.”

“Who is?” Sarah asked; Sarah was not quite through.

“The ‘rankin’ officer.’”

147 “Miss Rankin like olives!” Sarah exclaimed, thoroughly puzzled. “Blue Bonnet, what do you mean?”

“Doesn’t she like them?” Blue Bonnet asked, carefully selecting another apple.

“I wish you wouldn’t tease, Blue Bonnet,” Sarah said; “I’m not ready to talk yet.”

“Hurry, that’s a good child—I want to give Solomon a romp before dark. Solomon plays hide and seek beautifully.”

Later, roasting chestnuts before the fire in the sitting-room, Blue Bonnet’s thoughts went back to that missionary box. “Do you only put clothes in it, Sarah?” she asked.

“Put clothes in what, Blue Bonnet? A moment ago you were talking of examinations.”

“The box.”

“Mostly; sometimes there are other things—toys and books.”

“I wish I could give something for this one. I’d like to send something to—Texas.”

Sarah turned eagerly. “I wish you could; this isn’t quite as satis—as complete as we would like. There’s a girl out there about our age—and they’re so poor, Blue Bonnet.”

Blue Bonnet was on her feet. “We’ll go right upstairs and ransack.”

“Blue Bonnet!” Sarah’s voice was full of shocked surprise.

148Que asco! There, Sarah, you’ve made me say that. You didn’t suppose I meant anybody’s things but my own? I’ve got heaps of ribbons and pretty collars that I don’t need.”

Blue Bonnet led the way upstairs to her own room, turning on the light, throwing open her bureau drawers with an impetuosity that quite took Sarah’s breath away.

She soon had a little pile of ribbons, laces, and the odds and ends of finery that girls love, in the center of her bed.

“Oh, Blue Bonnet,” Sarah asked, “can you really spare all these?”

“Of course; there’ll be just so much less to take care of, and I can get more. But if I couldn’t, I shouldn’t mind. Sarah, do you suppose she wears gloves?”

“Why, of course!”

“Then I’m going to send all mine but two pairs—I hate to wear gloves! I’d send them all, only I suppose Aunt Lucinda would make me buy more—for church.”

“Blue Bonnet!”

“Sarah Blake, if you’re going to sit there and Blue Bonnet me—in a way that means ‘Elizabeth’—you can go downstairs until I get this bundle made up. It’ll save a lot of trouble—packing this stuff off. You see, Aunt Lucinda’s motto149 is—‘A box for everything and everything in its box.’”

Sarah was smoothing out the soft bright ribbons almost affectionately; new ribbons were a luxury at the parsonage. “How fond you are of red, Blue Bonnet!”

“Yes,” the girl said, “Uncle Cliff liked me to wear it. I wonder,” she looked up laughingly, “if that is one reason I like Kitty. Her hair is—reddish!”

“It isn’t as red as it used to be,” Sarah said. “Blue Bonnet, she’ll be so pleased with these—that girl out in Texas.”

Blue Bonnet looked at the little collection with dissatisfied eyes. “Sarah,—I’m going to send—my red dress!”

“Blue Bonnet!”

“I am. Maybe it’ll fit. If it doesn’t, I reckon it can be altered, or done something to.”

“Blue Bonnet—that’s an entirely new dress!”

“I know—I was going to wear it on Sunday for the first time. But doesn’t that make it all the better? I shouldn’t like wearing other people’s dresses.” Blue Bonnet went to her closet, coming back with the dress over her arm, a simple shirtwaist suit in some soft woollen goods. “Isn’t it the loveliest shade, Sarah? You can’t deny that this is useful and pretty too. See, the150 lace is all in the neck. It’s quite the prettiest of all my dresses.”

“But Blue Bonnet—”

Blue Bonnet moved impatiently. “You are the but-eriest set here in Woodford! Out on the ranch I did what I wanted to, when I wanted to,—that is, generally,—without all these everlasting buts. I just hate the word ‘but.’”

“Still,” Sarah held her ground determinedly, “I don’t think you ought to send that dress without asking your grandmother if you may.”

“It isn’t Grandmother’s dress! And if I did wait the box would be gone.—Uncle Cliff wouldn’t care.”

“There’ll be more boxes.”

“And more dresses! And this dress is going in this box—straight to Texas.”

“Well,” Sarah said uncertainly,—“oh, Blue Bonnet, let me fold it!”

“Wait a moment.” Blue Bonnet had gone over to her upper drawer; in its depleted condition, it was comparatively easy to find her little purse. “It isn’t as empty as it might be, nor as full as I wish it were,” she laughed. Next she went to her desk, where she wrote on a scrap of paper,—-“From a Texas Blue Bonnet.” The paper was slipped into the purse, the purse into the pocket of the dress. “I’m mighty glad now I insisted on a pocket in all my dresses,” she said. “Now, I151 reckon, Sarah, we’ll have to go to bed—I promised Aunt Lucinda to be in on time.”

Sarah was standing on the hearthrug. “Blue Bonnet,” she said, “you make me dizzy. You do the oddest, nicest things—just as if they weren’t anything at all!”

Blue Bonnet laughed. “Sarah,” and Sarah was quick to recognize the tone, “I should like to have you analyze that sentence.”

Sarah had begun to take off collar and hair-ribbon. “It must be nice, having a room to yourself. This is quite the prettiest room I’ve ever seen.”

“Grandmother arranged it for me—wasn’t it dear of her! I brought some of the Mexican blankets and things with me. It’s a great deal prettier than my room at home—I didn’t think much about such things there; I’m going to after I go back. But, Sarah, I think it would be perfectly lovely, sharing one’s room.”

“You have everything you want, don’t you?” Sarah said, a note of something a little like envy in her voice. There were so many things Sarah could not help wanting, and could not have.

Blue Bonnet was brushing her hair out; she looked up, her eyes dark with sudden feeling. “I haven’t any—every other girl in our set—has a father and mother.”

The next morning, Blue Bonnet’s contribution152 was left at the parsonage,—Sarah promising that it should go in the box; also that it should go unopened.

Blue Bonnet thought about it a good deal that morning; it gave her a warm glow of satisfaction to feel that she had helped in the making of that Texas box. After this, she meant to send something in every box, though, no matter where its destination.

And when Miss Rankin asked her the principal products of Brazil, Blue Bonnet, who was trying to imagine what that other Texas girl was like, answered, “Missionary boxes.”

There was an irrepressible murmur of amusement. “Elizabeth!” Miss Rankin exclaimed, “What are you thinking of?”

“Missionary boxes, Miss Rankin,” the girl answered.

Miss Rankin rapped sharply for order. “Elizabeth—”

“I was, truly,” Blue Bonnet said earnestly. “They were getting one ready at the parsonage yesterday afternoon, and I got to thinking about it, and how nice they were; but I’ll tell you the products of Brazil now, if I may, Miss Rankin?”

“Very well,” the teacher answered; “after this try to keep those wandering thoughts of yours on the subject in hand.”

153 “Yes, Miss Rankin,” Blue Bonnet answered.

“Blue Bonnet, how could you!” Sarah exclaimed, the moment the bell rang for morning recess.

“Blue Bonnet, you duck!” Kitty added. “For once a geography lesson was interesting,—only, I’d like to see one of the rest of us dare to answer like that!”

“But it was so,” Blue Bonnet insisted. “Sarah, do you suppose it’s on its way by now?”

“It’s going on the noon train,” Sarah answered.

Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda would not be back until early afternoon, so Blue Bonnet had coaxed Katy, the cook, into putting up some lunch for her to take to school. Kitty and Debby had brought theirs, and the three had a delightful time together in one corner of the almost empty classroom.

Going home from school that afternoon, with every step bringing her nearer to her grandmother and her aunt, Blue Bonnet’s growing doubts as to how the news of her contribution to the sewing society’s box would be received grew very rapidly indeed. She went up the path to the house at a much slower pace than usual, answering Solomon’s rush of welcome rather soberly. If only Aunt Lucinda would be out—Grandmother was so much more—reasonable. But no, there they both sat, each at her accustomed window. Blue154 Bonnet began to think that missionary boxes like a good many other things—had their objectionable side.

“And how did you and Sarah manage last night?” Miss Clyde asked, as Blue Bonnet sat down on the end of the lounge nearest Grandmother.

Blue Bonnet’s greeting had been rather subdued. There was the suspicion of a smile about the corners of Mrs. Clyde’s mouth—Sarah had been chosen for the express purpose of keeping Blue Bonnet out of mischief; but—unless all signs failed—

“We got on nicely,” Blue Bonnet answered slowly. “Grandmother, I gave my red dress to the missionary box.”

“Elizabeth!” Miss Clyde exclaimed.

“It was going to Texas—and Sarah said they were so poor—and that there was a girl about my age. I did want to send something worth while—and I put my purse in the pocket.”

“What else did you send?” Miss Clyde asked, as Blue Bonnet ended.

“Only some ribbons, and gloves, and little things—I had such a lot. I’ll go without a red dress all winter, if you like, Aunt Lucinda.”

“What end would that serve, Elizabeth?”

“I don’t know,” Blue Bonnet answered; “I thought maybe you’d think I ought to.”

155 Miss Clyde took several rather impatient stitches. It was Grandmother who spoke next.

“Blue Bonnet,” she said, “I can understand how you came to do this; but as long as you are under our care, it would be better for you to consult either your aunt or myself before giving away any of your clothes. You are too young to give indiscriminately, or on your own responsibility. Some day, you will probably have it in your power to give freely and generously; but, dear, you must learn how to use that power to the best advantage.”

“Yes, Grandmother,” Blue Bonnet answered soberly. She wished Aunt Lucinda wouldn’t sit there looking so—displeased; it was almost as bad as being scolded. Blue Bonnet drew a long breath. Life in Woodford was so complicated. If she’d given all her dresses away, when she was at home, Uncle Cliff wouldn’t have been vexed.

Mrs. Clyde saw the wistful look in the girl’s eyes. “After all, dear,” she said gently, “it was a kind impulse; and somewhere out in that beloved Texas of yours is a girl whose winter will be much brighter because of it. And now for your walk—not too long a one.”

“I’ll remember, Grandmother,” Blue Bonnet said.

“Mother,” Miss Clyde exclaimed, the moment Blue Bonnet had gone, “do you mean to spoil the girl utterly?”

156 “I’m not afraid,” Mrs. Clyde answered; “hers is too sweet a nature. She has all her mother’s impulsive generosity—which must be directed, not repressed.”

When Blue Bonnet came back an hour later, she found Miss Clyde alone in the sitting-room.

“Have you had a pleasant walk, Blue Bonnet?” her aunt asked.

The girl came forward eagerly. “Very, Aunt Lucinda; and please, the girls want me to go for a long walk to-morrow afternoon—’way up to the old ‘hunters’ cabin.’ May I?”

“Is that standing yet? I used to go up there when I was a girl.”

“May I go, Aunt Lucinda?”

“Why, yes, Blue Bonnet,” Aunt Lucinda answered.

There was distinct interrogation in Sarah’s eyes when she and Blue Bonnet met the next afternoon. Blue Bonnet ignored it completely; to all intents and purposes, she had never heard of a missionary box.

Debby and Kitty made up the rest of the party, the other three having been unable to come. It was a long walk—the latter half principally a climb—before they reached the little disused cabin standing on a bit of woodland clearing, far up on one of the hills back of Woodford.

157 It was a mild day, with a soft haze blurring the view from the high point on which the cabin stood; but the four girls sitting on an old log before the door were not greatly disappointed. They had come for the mere pleasure of the coming; and now they rested, contentedly enjoying the apples which Blue Bonnet had supplied—it being her week to provide the refreshments, which were always a part of these Saturday afternoon tramps.

“Apples are all very well,” Kitty remarked, taking a second one, “but—”

“I know you’d rather have candy,” Blue Bonnet said, her face reddening; “but I hadn’t any money—I sha’n’t have any before the first of the month. I’ll treat twice running then, to make up. Aunt Lucinda won’t let me borrow; I—she said so this morning.”

“You’ve spent all your allowance for this month?” Kitty cried.

“I’ve—used it. There’s Alec.” Blue Bonnet pointed to the winding road down below. Alec was coming towards them on Victor.

“He hasn’t seen us yet,” Debby said; “doesn’t he look tired?”

“It’s too long a ride for him—it’s a great deal longer by the road,” Kitty declared. “Alec isn’t strong, but he won’t give in. Papa says his will power is wonderful.”

Alec had seen them now. Presently he came158 round the curve, throwing himself off his horse with an involuntary sigh of weariness. “What are you all doing up here—and where are the rest of you?” he asked.

“Having a good time,” Blue Bonnet told him.

“Why didn’t you choose a warmer spot?” Alec was shivering.

Sarah jumped up. “Let’s go inside and make a fire—the chimney’s all right.”

They gathered dried wood and underbrush, Alec produced matches, and they soon had a bright fire roaring and leaping in the fireplace, that took up nearly all of one side of the little cabin.

Sitting on the floor before it in a semi-circle, they told stories in turn, beginning with Sarah.

Suddenly Alec, who had been strangely silent for some moments, keeled quietly over in a little heap.

In a moment Sarah, kneeling beside him, had lowered him gently, until his head rested on the cabin floor. “It’s only a faint,” she said, her hand on his wrist; “he’s overtired, and his heart isn’t very strong. But I think he ought to have a doctor. Where could we catch your father, Kitty?”

“He was going out on the mill road—he’s due at Nesbit’s farm about five.”

“It’s nearly five now,” Debby said, looking at her watch.

159 “I’ll go right over there,” Kitty offered; “I’ll be as quick as possible, but it’s a rough road.”

“If only one of you could ride over—on Victor?” Sarah said anxiously. “Oh, Blue Bonnet, you must ride—all Western girls do, don’t they? Ride all sorts of horses?”

“Yes, I ride,” Blue Bonnet answered; would the others see how she was trembling?

“Victor goes like the wind,” Debby said.

There was a moment’s silence. To Blue Bonnet, it seemed as if she had been standing there in wretched indecision for hours. And yet she knew it was only a moment before she heard herself saying quietly, “Of course, I’ll go, Sarah.”

Kitty and Debby went out with her to where Victor stood tied; he whinnied with pleasure at sight of them.

“You are sure you can ride him?” Debby asked. “He’s pretty wild.”

Blue Bonnet did not answer; she was stroking Victor’s head with fingers that would tremble.

“Isn’t it good you’re not afraid?” Kitty said excitedly. “I’d be frightened to death.”

“Afraid!” Blue Bonnet wondered if anyone had ever known what fear was—as she knew it at that moment. “How shall I get to Nesbit’s?” she asked.

And Kitty told her.

160 Then came Victor’s share in the discussion. Would he let her mount?

Decidedly, it appeared that he would not. Blue Bonnet breathed a little easier. If he would not let her mount, she could not be to blame—not even in her own eyes.

Then, in a moment, all the girl’s fighting blood was up,—and she knew that she meant to win the struggle.

“Victor,” she whispered, her hand on the horse’s glossy neck, “Victor, fight with me, not against me, and help me to be a victor, too.”

Perhaps the horse understood; perhaps there was something magical in the touch of Blue Bonnet’s fingers, for suddenly he stood quite still.

The next moment Blue Bonnet was in the saddle and they were off.



It was a rough ride, the narrow down-hill road turning abruptly more than once; then came a short cut across country through seldom-used lanes, with a field to cross before reaching the broad mill road.

At first, Victor was disposed to repent his sudden yielding; disposed to display that repentance very actively. And then Victor realized that the hand on the bridle rein was firm and steady—the hand of the master; and that his rider, if only a girl, knew how to ride.

And all the way, above the hurry and excitement, above her anxiety for Alec, one thought rang triumphantly through Blue Bonnet’s mind—she was not afraid.

Dr. Clark, gathering up the reins, preparatory to leaving Nesbit’s, saw the hurrying horse and waited. Ten chances to one, he was wanted.

“Well!” he exclaimed, as Blue Bonnet drew up beside the gig, “any of you girls come a cropper?”

“It’s Alec, Dr. Clark!” Slipping out of the saddle, Blue Bonnet told her errand. “I’ll go back162 with you,” she added. “Victor’s had pretty hard service this afternoon; I’ll leave him here for some one to look after him, and take him home by and by.”

“Well, Miss Elizabeth, you surely can ride!” the doctor said, as Blue Bonnet climbed in beside him; and he marvelled over the sudden lighting up of her blue eyes.

Kitty was watching anxiously for them, “Alec seems some better, papa,” she said; “I am glad you’ve come.”

Alec was lying before the fire, his head resting on an impromptu pillow made of the girls’ jackets. He smiled deprecatingly, at sight of the doctor. “It’s too bad, sir, to have brought you ’way up here. I’d have been all right presently.”

“Nice retired little spot you chose to do this in,” Dr. Clark said, his hand on Alec’s pulse. “Suppose you’d been alone, young man? Kitty, isn’t there a spring about here?” the doctor took out his medicine case.

“Where’s Blue Bonnet?” Alec asked.

“I’m here,” the girl answered. She was sitting back of him, at one corner of the fireplace.

“Did Victor go—well?”


Alec tried to raise himself. “Not just yet,” the doctor told him. He stood a moment, looking down at the group. “Sarah, I’m going to leave you and163 Elizabeth here with Alec; I’ll drive round by the General’s, and have the carriage sent up—it’ll be easier than the gig. Debby and Kitty can go back with me. I’ll stop at your place, Elizabeth, and at the parsonage.”

Sarah followed the doctor to the gig. “Is Alec all right now?” she asked.

“He’s a good deal better; just keep him quiet.”

Sarah went back to the cabin. Blue Bonnet had piled on fresh sticks and dried moss, and the little place was warm and bright.

“It’s a real adventure, isn’t it?” she said, as they listened to Nannie picking her careful way down the rough, hillside road.

“I bet you two are hungry,” Alec answered.

“Being a little hungry is part of the fun,” Blue Bonnet declared; “it’s like being besieged, or cast on a desert island.”

“With the comforting certainty of being rescued,” Sarah added.

“I reckon Aunt Lucinda’s wondering what mischief I’m up to now,” Blue Bonnet laughed; “I was to be in before dark without fail.”

“Where’s Victor?” Alec asked suddenly.

“I left him at Nesbit’s; Jim’s going to take him home after a while,” Blue Bonnet answered. She leaned forward, reading the unspoken question in Alec’s eyes. “Everything’s all right,” she said earnestly.

164 “Wasn’t it good, Blue Bonnet, that Victor let you ride him, and that you weren’t afraid?” Sarah said.

Blue Bonnet threw a handful of dried cones on the fire. “I think Victor really enjoyed that ride—I know I did.”

The talk died down; Alec seemed drowsy, and the other two were anxious not to disturb him. Once Sarah asked in a whisper, “Blue Bonnet, what are you thinking about?”

Blue Bonnet’s eyes were on the fire, seeing pictures there in the flickering lights that Sarah could only guess at. “Different things,” she answered slowly.

“They must be pleasant thoughts.”

“They are. Sarah, did you ever have a wish—a very special wish—come true?”

“I don’t know,” Sarah said thoughtfully; “I try not to wish for things that can’t come true.”

“There’s the carriage, Sarah.” Blue Bonnet jumped up.

A moment or so later, they heard it draw up before the cabin; the next instant, General Trent stood in the low doorway, shading his eyes from the glare of the fire.

“Grandfather!” Alec exclaimed, “you shouldn’t have come, sir!”

“What in the world have you been up to, Alec?” the General asked. Lifting the boy, he carried him165 out to the carriage, in spite of Alec’s protestations that he was quite able to walk.

Norah had sent a plentiful supply of pillows and shawls, and Alec was made warm and comfortable on the back seat, with Sarah beside him to see that he kept his manifold wrappings on. “I’ll never, never do it again,” he declared. “Sarah, I simply won’t have another pillow near me.”

Blue Bonnet was in front with the General. Once down the stony, winding road and out on the broad, level mill road, the latter turned to her, laying a hand on her loosely clasped ones.

“You’ve put me under a big obligation to-day, Miss Elizabeth,” he said. “Upon my word, I wish I’d been there to see that ride.”

“I’ve only been trying to pay my debts a little, General,” the girl answered; “Alec’s been mighty good to me—lots of times. And besides, I—oh, I am glad I went.”

“Which doesn’t in the least alter what I have just said, Miss Elizabeth.”

Supper had been over for some time when Blue Bonnet reached home; but Miss Lucinda had arranged a little round table for her by the sitting-room fire, where she supped quite in state.

“And you rode Victor!” Aunt Lucinda said. Dr. Clark’s few hurried words of explanation and praise had sent a thrill of pride through Miss Clyde. “My dear, suppose he had thrown you!”

166 “But he didn’t, Aunt Lucinda; he behaved beautifully, after the first. And he did go—it was riding!”

And when, presently, Miss Clyde had gone over to inquire about Alec, Blue Bonnet came to sit in her favorite place, the hearth-rug, her head on her grandmother’s knee. “Grandmother,” she said softly, “I’m very—happy.”

Mrs. Clyde smoothed back the tumbled hair with a hand that trembled a little. “And I, too, dear—though possibly from a different reason. I am very glad I didn’t know about that ride at the time, Blue Bonnet.”

“Grandmother, there’s some use now trying to make myself fit to go back—I’m not afraid any more. I don’t think I ever shall be—again. I was,—when Sarah asked me to go,—horribly afraid. Then Victor wouldn’t let me mount, and I forgot everything else but my determination to make him. And then, oh, Grandmother, just when it was the hardest,—after we were off, I mean, and Victor was acting—rather lively,—it suddenly came over me that I wasn’t in the least afraid.”

“I am very glad, dear. Do you remember wanting to do something ‘very particular’ for Alec?”

“But Grandmother, this wasn’t anything! Kitty would have gone if I hadn’t.”

“Kitty would have had to walk, dear, and you167 were only just in time to catch the doctor. In such cases, the sooner help comes the better.”

For a moment Blue Bonnet did not answer. When she did speak, it was to ask, “Grandmother, can it be arranged? I should like to have a saddle-horse now.”

“I think it can, dear.”

“General Trent said something about a mare belonging to Mr. Darrel. I’ve seen her; she is a beauty—such a match for Victor.”

“Must it be a match for Victor?”

Blue Bonnet laughed. “I shouldn’t like it to be a match for Kitty’s Black Pete.”

“Well, we’ll see about it the first of the week,” Mrs. Clyde promised; “now, I think the best thing for you to do is to go to bed.”

“I’m not one bit sleepy,” Blue Bonnet answered,—“only sort of queer and shivery.”

At which Mrs. Clyde hurried her off to bed at once, coming herself to see that she was well tucked in, and to bring her a nice warm drink.

The next morning, it was a flushed and hoarse Blue Bonnet who looked up as her grandmother came in to see how she was. Mrs. Clyde decided that she must stay in bed until after breakfast, at least.

Breakfast in bed was a new experience for Blue Bonnet; and when Aunt Lucinda brought up the tray, with its pretty, sprigged individual breakfast168 service, that had been her mother’s, Blue Bonnet thought being an invalid very delightful.

The more so, as after breakfast she was allowed to come down to the sitting-room. She found Mrs. Clyde alone, Aunt Lucinda having gone to church.

The weather had changed during the night; to-day it was gray and lowering, with a promise of rain in the damp wind sweeping the scattered leaves up drive and over lawn.

Blue Bonnet curled herself up in a big chair at one side of the glowing fire, with a favorite book. In her deep-red dressing-gown, and pretty, fur-trimmed red slippers, she made a vivid spot of color in the somber room. And Mrs. Clyde, looking up from her own book more than once, wondered how she was ever to bear the parting with this second Elizabeth.

“I wonder how Alec is, Grandmother?” Blue Bonnet said, glancing up. “Don’t you think I might go over for just a few minutes this afternoon?”

“I would rather that you didn’t go out to-day, dear; probably your aunt will bring word when she comes home.”

And Miss Clyde did bring word that Alec was much better; but, like Blue Bonnet, kept at home.

“Did you see Solomon, Aunt Lucinda?” Blue Bonnet asked.

“He was down at the gate watching when I came from church.”

169 “I suppose he wonders where I am,” Blue Bonnet said longingly; “I haven’t said good morning to him, yet.”

Miss Lucinda went away to take off her hat and coat. She came back soon, behind her a little wriggling brown dog, who was all over Blue Bonnet in a moment, licking her hands and all of her face he could reach.

“Solomon, you darling!” then Blue Bonnet looked at her aunt. “Aunt Lucinda, did you tell him he might come?”

Miss Clyde smiled. “Well,” she said slowly, “Solomon has improved a good deal lately; it seems as if he were entitled to a few extra privileges. As for Solomon’s mistress, I am quite sure she is—after yesterday afternoon.”

“Solomon, do you hear?” Blue Bonnet bent to pat Solomon, who by now was sitting sedately on the hearth-rug, looking about the room with approving eyes. “You’re promoted, Solomon, and it’s up to you, sir, not to get demoted. It’s a terrible disgrace, Solomon, to be demoted.”

By the next day the rain had come; and Blue Bonnet, though much better, was kept at home from school. At first, the prospect of a long, idle day was delightful, the only drawback being that it must be passed indoors; but before noontime came, Blue Bonnet was actually wishing that she might go to school.

170 “Honestly, I’m all right, Grandmother,” she coaxed; “at home, I never stay in on account of rain.”

“Not before to-morrow morning, dear,” Mrs. Clyde answered. “If you are as much better then, you shall go.”

Blue Bonnet stirred impatiently. “I—I just hate having to stay home from school!” she declared.

Miss Clyde looked up from her sewing. “Blue Bonnet, suppose you make out a classified list of all the things you really do hate.”

Blue Bonnet colored. “I don’t believe it would be a very long one,” she said, after a moment.

“Nor I,” her aunt answered.

“I wish I could get word to the girls, maybe some of them would come up after school.”

“I think,” Mrs. Clyde said, “it is a case where mental telepathy will prove quite adequate.”

She was right; the six other members of the “We are Seven’s” appeared in a body, as soon after school as possible.

“Well, Blue Bonnet Ashe,” Kitty said, “why weren’t you at school?”

“I couldn’t come.”

“We missed you a lot,” Debby assured her.

“And the ‘rankin’ officer’ didn’t have to read the riot act nearly as much as usual—not more than once, for a fact!” Kitty added.

171Whom did she read it to that once?” Blue Bonnet asked.

“To Kitty,” Ruth answered, “Kitty got a precious raking-over.”

“It was very ungrateful in her,” Kitty declared; “I was only trying to keep her from missing Blue Bonnet too much.”

They gathered about the fire in the back parlor, talking and laughing, their voices sending pleasant echoes through the old house.

Presently Delia appeared with hot chocolate, and the little frosted cakes, the recipe for which was a Clyde secret.

“Here be luxury!” Kitty cried. “Blue Bonnet, do you have these cakes all the time?”

“Not for breakfast—as a rule.”

“Alec wasn’t at school, either,” Sarah said; “but he’s a great deal better.”

“Oh, Blue Bonnet!” Amanda leaned forward eagerly; “wasn’t it awful riding Victor?”

“See here, Blue Bonnet Ashe,” Kitty broke in excitedly; “I simply can’t stand it another moment.”

“But you seem to be sitting down,” Blue Bonnet said.

“I’ve got to know why—when you could ride—and ride like that—you wouldn’t.”

“It doesn’t strike me as such a very necessary piece of knowledge,” Blue Bonnet answered.

172 “Now you’re hedging—I feel it in your voice!”

Blue Bonnet’s color rose. “I was.”

“Kitty,” Debby protested, “how can you!”

Kitty laughed mischievously. “Look here, Debby, you go play in your own back yard, that’s a good girl.”

“And you haven’t told Blue Bonnet your idea,” Susy put in.

“Has she one?” Blue Bonnet asked politely.

“You go play with Debby, Susy,” Kitty advised. “Now, Blue Bonnet, I’m waiting to hear your reason.”

“You’ll have to wait a good while, Kitty.”

“I sha’n’t tell you my idea—and it’s a beauty—until you tell me what I want to know, Blue Bonnet Ashe.”

“Then you’ll never tell me it, little Miss Why.”

Across the low tea-table their eyes met; it was the gray, not the blue ones, which wavered first. “Keep your old secret,” Kitty pouted. “Sarah, you can tell the idea—I won’t.”

“Kitty thought,” Sarah began, anxious to steer the conversation into smoother channels, “that it would be nice for us seven to form a riding club.”

“How perfectly lovely!” Blue Bonnet went to sit beside Kitty on the lounge.

“Then you do like to ride?” the latter asked.

“I adore it! But Sarah,” Blue Bonnet turned wonderingly, “I thought you didn’t ride.”

173 “I used to a little; I think I shall take it up again.”

“Oh, Sarah’s only going into it from a sense of duty,” Kitty warned, “and it’ll be our duty to see that she gets her money’s worth. Were you expecting to be able to ride Victor, Sarah, before the season’s over?”

“Kitty, sometimes you are positively rude.”

“Pass the cakes to Kitty, Amanda, please,” Blue Bonnet asked.

“We thought,” Sarah went on, “that we’d try to ride together every Saturday afternoon.”

“And it’s to be a real club,” Kitty broke in, “with dues—”

“There’ll be more doings than dues where you are, Kitty,” Susy exclaimed.

“And we must have a clubroom,” Ruth added, “where we can meet when the weather’s too bad for riding.”

“Or on the days when Blue Bonnet doesn’t want to ride, and won’t tell why,” Kitty said.

“On stormy days we could bring our work, and one of us could read aloud,” Sarah suggested; “travels, or something instructive.”

“You’ll be traveling, Sarah Blake, if you spring any more such ideas on us!” Kitty protested. “Now, let’s form, here and now.”

Blue Bonnet was unanimously chosen president; Sarah, treasurer. “That’ll be enough officers,”174 Kitty insisted. Membership was to be limited to the “We are Seven’s,” but each member would be entitled to invite one friend for the rides.

And then suddenly the new president gave a cry of dismay. “I can’t join—not before next month. I haven’t any money!” she cried.

“But it’s only twenty-five cents!” Kitty said.

“I haven’t five cents!”

“I’ll lend you the money,” Susy said.

“I can’t borrow.”

“You needn’t pay up until next month,” Debby suggested.

“Well, we’ll find a way,” Susy promised, as they rose to go.

Blue Bonnet was standing by the sitting-room window, watching them down the street, when Alec came up behind her. “How’s the invalid?” he asked.

She turned eagerly. “Isn’t that for you to say? You are better, Alec?”

“Better! I’m all right; though I nearly brought on another collapse trying to assure Grandfather of the fact.”

They sat down before the fire, Blue Bonnet telling him of the new club.

“You’ve got your wish, haven’t you, Blue Bonnet?” the boy said.

“Yes,—thanks to you and Victor.”

“Thanks to nobody but yourself.” Alec rose.175 “I promised Grandfather not to stay long; I had to come over—to thank you—I mean, to try to.”

“Please don’t—it wasn’t anything.”

Not anything! Alec thought of the girl sitting with bowed head on the stile—“Not anything!” he repeated gravely.

“And it brought me—everything.”

“Blue Bonnet, I’m mighty glad of that; all the same, I’ll never forget.” At the door, he stopped.

“Woodford shall many a day tell of the plucky way
In which our Blue Bonnet rode over the border,”

he sang softly.

It was Grandmother who found “the way.”

Blue Bonnet told her of the new club that evening during the twilight talk which had become a regular institution. “I might write to Uncle Cliff—he’d send me all the money I wanted; that wouldn’t be borrowing, nor running ahead. I suppose, though, Aunt Lucinda wouldn’t like that?”

“Or you might come to me,” Mrs. Clyde suggested.

“But I thought—”

“Oh, I shall not lend you anything; neither shall I give you very much,—seeing that your aunt is trying to teach you a much needed lesson in forethought,—but I think, considering how176 and why your allowance was used, dear, that I may be allowed to stretch a point this time.” And then Grandmother went on to propose that the club should make use of one of the rooms in the ell,—a big, sunny room, with convenient access to the back stairway.

“Grandmother!” Blue Bonnet declared, “it’ll be perfectly lovely. You are certainly the dearest grandmother that ever was!”

The new club went on its first ride the following Saturday afternoon. The mounts were varied. Blue Bonnet, on Darrel’s mare, leading the march, both figuratively and literally. Debby, Ruth, and Susy had mustered fairly good horses; Kitty’s Black Pete had occasional moments of brilliancy, and more than occasional ones of obstinacy; Amanda’s sober gray mare was quite as active as Amanda wished; while Sarah plodded along on what Kitty called the most ministerial of horses, taking her ride as gravely as she did most things.

“Sarah!” Kitty demanded impatiently, “did your mother tell you not to go out of sight of the house?”

Sarah’s light blue eyes expressed wonder. “Certainly not; how could I be out riding if she had?”

“Oh, you are out riding!” Kitty said. “I thought you were standing still!”

177 Blue Bonnet wheeled about. “As president of this club, I positively forbid any more impertinence from our youngest member. You are the youngest, you know, Kitty—you’re only fourteen. Come on, Sarah.”

“She says she is coming,” Kitty retorted. “She’s moving almost as fast as a glacier.”

Blue Bonnet’s rides were by no means confined to the weekly ones with the club. Darrel’s mare had been transferred to the Clyde stables; and on most afternoons, a slender, bright-faced girl in dark blue riding-habit was to be seen riding at a brisk pace in and out about Woodford. Sometimes with one or more companions; often alone; but always attended by a small brown dog, who appeared to think these riding expeditions had been instituted for his special benefit.

They were coming home one afternoon—Blue Bonnet and Solomon—from a swift canter, when Blue Bonnet caught sight of some one waiting on the front piazza. The girl’s heart gave a sudden leap. With a quick dash forward, she reached the steps as Mr. Ashe came down them.

“Honey!” the latter exclaimed.

“Uncle Cliff! When did you come?”

“Got here about an hour ago, Honey.” He held out his arms, and she slipped lightly into them, to be held very closely for a moment before he let her go.

178 “You’ve been here a whole hour—and I never knew!” Blue Bonnet said.

“Oh, well, I calculated on staying over night, Eliza—”

Instantly her hand was over his mouth. “You’re not to call me that! I’m Blue Bonnet.”

Uncle Cliff laughed. “I reckon you are Blue Bonnet all right.”

They went indoors together; Blue Bonnet clinging to him as if she could never let him go again. Half-way down the hall, Mr. Ashe stopped abruptly, holding her off at arm’s length. “You’ve grown, Honey,—and,” he could keep the words back no longer, “Honey, you came up the drive just now like your father’s own girl. See here, Blue Bonnet, your grandmother’s been telling me something that you should have told me long ago; she’s been telling me the sequel of the story, too. Never you say again you’re not an Ashe ‘clear through.’ My, but Uncle Joe’s going to be proud to hear of it.”

“I wish he had come, too.”

“He sent you a bit of the ranch—in damp cotton.”

Blue Bonnet was half-way upstairs in a moment. She came down to supper, with some of the blue bonnets at the throat of her white wool blouse, and they were not bluer than the shining eyes above them.

179 The club received Mr. Ashe enthusiastically, though at heart a little anxiously. Kitty had promptly voiced this anxiety in the first moment of meeting him, the day after his arrival. “Have you come to take Blue Bonnet back?” she demanded.

Mr. Ashe’s only answer was a little laugh that might have meant yes, or no.

Kitty was not the only one to ask the question, though perhaps the only one to put it so bluntly. Grandmother asked it with her eyes a good many times during the days that followed.

“But he couldn’t take her back,” Ruth said, one afternoon; “she came to go to school.”

“He’s her guardian—she has to do whatever he says,” Debby added.

Kitty shook her red head wisely. “You mean, he has to do whatever she says, and if she wants to go—I tell you one thing, we’ll mob him if he tries it.”

Mr. Ashe was to be the guest of honor at the club’s ride that day; following the ride, the club were to be his guests at a dinner at the hotel. A dinner at which the souvenirs were gold stick-pins in the form of miniature riding whips—and which were adopted as the club emblem then and there. Altogether, a delightful affair, with menu cards and table decorations bearing witness to the fact that it was a dinner given to a riding club.

180 “All the same,” Kitty faced Mr. Ashe squarely across the low horseshoe mound of flowers, “you can’t have Blue Bonnet!”

“Why not?” he asked.

“She belongs to us.”

“Oh, she does, does she?” Mr. Ashe said; his glance went from Kitty’s saucy, piquant little face to Blue Bonnet’s happy one. Blue Bonnet was getting to belong to a good many people nowadays it seemed.

“It has all been perfectly lovely,” Blue Bonnet told him, as they rode home together in the frosty starlight; she brought her horse a little nearer, laughing up into her uncle’s face, “and you behaved beautifully.”

“Don’t I always?”

“Of course, but—I was a little bit afraid you might—Sarah’s horse is so—even Amanda’s for that matter—and Black Pete sometimes—”

“My dear,” Mr. Ashe replied, gravely, “one of the earliest lessons taught me in my childhood was respect—for my elders!”

Blue Bonnet was very happy those days. As for Uncle Cliff, he looked on and wondered; it was the Blue Bonnet he had always known—and yet a different one. A less heedless, inconsequent, Blue Bonnet; one more thoughtful of the comfort of others.

He said something of this that evening to Mrs.181 Clyde. “I suppose it’s being with women,” he said. “You’re making a little woman out of her—I reckon it’s what her mother would have wished—only, don’t take all the spirit out of her.”

“Not much danger of that,” Mrs. Clyde answered; “a little taming down will do no harm.”

“It hasn’t so far. She seems to like it back here all right.”

“But loves the ranch; we shall never make an Easterner of her, Mr. Ashe.”

Some one came up the path whistling “All the Blue Bonnets”; and from the veranda sounded Blue Bonnet’s answering call.

“Who’s been taking up my tune?” Mr. Ashe asked.

“That was Alec; he and Blue Bonnet are great chums.”

“He’s a nice boy,—a bit too delicate; we’ll have to have him out on the ranch next summer.”

He told Blue Bonnet so later.

“Yes,” Blue Bonnet agreed; “and then he will get his wish too.”

The next day, Mr. Ashe spoke to Blue Bonnet about going home. It was Sunday, and they had been for a long walk together; to the woods to see the brook she had followed that never-to-be-forgotten day; through the meadow, where she had sat homesick and forlorn, that afternoon of182 her second running away from school. He had heard the stories of both those runnings away; had heard, indeed, pretty much everything that had happened during the past few months; and now, standing by the meadow gate, he asked suddenly, “Well, Honey, how about going back with me?”

She looked up quickly. “Going back—with you—now, Uncle Cliff?”

“Yes, Blue Bonnet—when a girl loves the ranch, loves everything the life there stands for, and isn’t afraid to ride, I don’t see that there’s anything left to do but take her West.”

Before he had finished speaking, Blue Bonnet’s face was hidden against his arm. “Oh, but I love you for saying that, Uncle Cliff! And I do love it out there—and I’d love to go back—and yet—Grandmother thinks I ought to wait and make myself ready; I’m not nearly ready, yet.”

“Aren’t you, Honey? You seem so to me. But what do you think about it, Blue Bonnet?”

She waited a moment,—and the old Blue Bonnet would not have waited. “I’m afraid—I think so, too.”

“Maybe you’re right, Honey. We’ll try it a while longer—if you say. Suppose I leave you here until Spring.”

“I could go home for the summer?” Blue Bonnet said.

Could!—I reckon you’re going to get the first183 train out of here, as soon as school closes. As for coming back next fall,—we’ll wait and see.”

“And Solomon’s coming too,” Blue Bonnet said, stooping to pat the dog lying patiently at her feet. Solomon was tired and hungry; he didn’t understand why people waited to talk out-of-doors when their business of walking was over.

“There’ll be room for Solomon,” Mr. Ashe said; “he isn’t a bad specimen of a dog—minds pretty well.”

“Solomon’s improved a lot,” Blue Bonnet said. “Oh, but he will love the ranch. I wonder what Don will say to him; and whether Solomon will be as much of a surprise to the Texas dogs as I’ve been to the Woodford girls.”

A little later, Mr. Ashe entered the sitting-room alone; Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda looked up, the same unspoken question on the lips of both.

Mr. Ashe came forward. “Well,” he said, a little sadly, “it appears that I am to go back alone—this trip.”



But the return trip was not to be made yet; there was Thanksgiving—only a matter of days now—to come first, not to mention Christmas.

“A real New England Thanksgiving!” Blue Bonnet checked the words off on her fingers. “I’ve never had one of that kind, have I? The Boston relatives are coming! I’m rather scared of the Boston relatives; I’ve an idea they’ll be rather like Aunt Lucinda—only more so.”

She and her uncle were walking up and down the veranda in the twilight,—Mr. Ashe seemed to dislike going indoors quite as much as Blue Bonnet did. Delia had lighted up, and as they passed and re-passed the long windows they caught pleasant glimpses of mingled gas and firelight, and through the wide doorway, leading from sitting to dining-room, the table laid ready for supper.

Mr. Ashe, taking in half unconsciously all the quiet, homely touches, glanced down at his companion a little anxiously. “I reckon you’ll be having a lot of new experiences right along, Honey.”

Blue Bonnet felt the thought underlying the words, and the hand resting lightly on his arm185 tightened its pressure. “Don’t you worry, Uncle Cliff! Three hundred years—much less three—couldn’t make an Easterner of me for keeps. And after Thanksgiving, Christmas’ll be here in no time. You’d never have the heart to go back before Christmas?”

“Not back, Blue Bonnet, but away for a bit. There’s considerable business waiting on me right now in New York.”

“I wonder how it’ll seem on Christmas morning not to have Benita come tiptoeing ever so early into my room with the Christmas cake, baked just for me? Uncle Cliff, wouldn’t it be nice to send them a box?”

“We’ll do it, Honey! It’ll take a pretty big box, won’t it?”

“If you knew how perfectly lovely it is to have you agreeing to things first time round! I’d like to pass a law making it illegal to ‘but’ people.”

Mr. Ashe laughed. “I reckon I do spoil you a bit, Honey! See here, suppose you come along to New York with me? We’ll manage to worry in a good time or so, between business appointments.”

“And school?”

“Looks to me like you’d earned a holiday.”

“If you’re going to talk that way, I’ll have to go indoors. There’ll be nearly two weeks’ holiday at Christmas. Only first come those horrid exams! Uncle Cliff, if I don’t pass, will you disown me?”

186 “I’d be likely to, wouldn’t I? I reckon if the others get through you will.”

The thought of those mid-year examinations was giving Blue Bonnet a good deal of uneasiness; she had found out that most decidedly she did not want her class to go on without her. And promotion would not altogether depend upon the result of the examinations, either; the regular class record counted for much—and she had done so poorly all the fall!

She needed little reminding to get at her studies these evenings, shutting herself up alone in the back parlor with a fortitude that Aunt Lucinda found most encouraging, and Mr. Ashe inwardly deplored. Surely all those long hours spent at the academy each day were enough. He felt that Uncle Joe would never approve of Blue Bonnet’s being so tied down.

“You wouldn’t like to go back to a tutor, Honey?” he asked, the next morning during the walk to school. “I reckon we could get our pick of them back here.”

“I don’t believe I would—even if I could. School isn’t half bad—once you’re used to it; there’s lots of fun going, though there are some tiresome things mixed up in it. Aunt Lucinda says,” Blue Bonnet’s eyes danced, “that I need the discipline of school life more than any girl she has ever known. There, I’d nearly forgotten! Please187 lend me your knife a moment, Uncle Cliff,—I’ve lost mine.”

“It appears to me,” Mr. Ashe commented, opening his knife for her, “that that pencil ought to be placed on the retired list.”

“It isn’t as bad as the rest,” she held out her pencil box; “I do chew them up, or down, so.”

“How about buying more?”

“I—” Blue Bonnet hesitated. Why had she called his attention to them? “I’m—going to, the first of the month.”

“‘The first of the month,’” her uncle repeated. “Is that one of the school regulations?”

“Hardly!” Blue Bonnet laughed. “You see, I’m—allowanced nowadays. Aunt Lucinda started in allowancing me—after the first week. She said I must learn to distinguish between the use and abuse of money.”

Mr. Ashe pulled at his moustache. “And—”

“It hasn’t been such an easy lesson for me. Just now I’m being given a practical illustration.”

“You don’t mean, Blue Bonnet—” Mr. Ashe’s hand went to his pocket.

Blue Bonnet drew back. “I can’t take anything, Uncle Cliff! It wouldn’t be exactly—square, under the circumstances. There’s the bell! Good-bye, and thank you just as much.”

Mr. Ashe waited until, with a final wave of the hand, she had disappeared around the bend in the188 stairs; then he paid a visit to the stationer’s on the corner.

There he made a record-breaking purchase of the plump little woman, whom everybody in Woodford called “Aunt Polly,” and whose tiny shop was as much one of the institutions of the place as the academy itself.

It left Aunt Polly feeling rather breathless and bewildered. Was that the way they did things out in Texas?

In the meantime, quite unconscious of the excitement he had left behind him, Mr. Ashe was strolling leisurely back to the Clyde place, stopping here and there to pass the time of day with various small Woodfordites—notably among them the “Palmer baby,” once more on its travels.

Solomon was watching for him from the gate. It was a delightful morning for a tramp, Solomon said,—as plainly as dog may.

But Mr. Ashe shook his head, and went on indoors to the sitting-room, where Miss Lucinda sat sewing.

“Are you too busy for a little chat—what we might call a business talk?” he asked, depositing his bundle on the table and taking his stand on the hearth-rug, with his back to the fire.

Miss Lucinda assured him that she was quite at his service.

“I’ve been doing a little shopping,” Mr. Ashe189 nodded towards the parcel. “I happened to find out—accidentally—that Blue Bonnet was pretty well reduced in the matter of school supplies.”

Inwardly, Miss Lucinda sighed; she knew it, and she had hoped,—but now—

“What’s Blue Bonnet getting for an allowance, Miss Clyde?” Mr. Ashe asked.

“Three dollars a month.”

“I didn’t know until this morning that she had been put on an allowance.”

“It was the only thing to do. Blue Bonnet has no idea whatever as to the value of money.”

“I should judge she ought to have by now.”

“I am hoping she will have—a little. She gave her purse and its entire contents away—to say nothing of a new winter gown—on a moment’s impulse. Had there been thirty dollars in her purse instead of three, it would probably have been just the same.”

“I reckon it would,” Mr. Ashe agreed so cheerfully that again Miss Lucinda sighed inwardly.

“She would give her head, Blue Bonnet would, if it wasn’t fastened on, and anyone asked her for it.”

“She certainly loses it with deplorable frequency,” Miss Lucinda remarked.

Mr. Ashe chuckled, then said soberly—“Three dollars!”

He was thinking of the generous mail orders, which had been one of the diversions of the long190 winter evenings; of the occasional visits to the little country town.

Those had been gala days on the ranch for the little Mexicans,—those days after the return from town. As for Benita, her ribbons were the envy of all the other women on the ranch; while Uncle Joe’s stock of silk neckerchiefs was famous.

Come to think of it, Blue Bonnet’s buying had mostly been for other folks.

And they had tried to pin her down to three dollars a month!

Mr. Ashe looked across at Miss Lucinda. “You wouldn’t call three dollars a remarkably big allowance, Miss Lucinda?”

“It is three times what several of her companions have,” Miss Clyde answered; “and they are expected to keep themselves in gloves and ribbons. Blue Bonnet is only required to provide for her school supplies and small personal expenses.”

“But you see Blue Bonnet will have—”

Miss Lucinda glanced up quickly. “Should that make any difference—now?”

“I should have thought it might,” Mr. Ashe replied candidly.

There was a short silence, then Miss Lucinda said slowly, “I know, Mr. Ashe, that I have no right to dictate, that you are Blue Bonnet’s legal guardian,”—Miss Lucinda would not say rightful; she had her own opinion on that point; “and yet—”

191 Mr. Ashe put up a protesting hand. “I think you have the right; I daresay you are right and that I am wrong. I’ll try not to butt in again. I reckon we’ve both got the same end in view, and that maybe your road is the best.”

“It is not always the easiest—for either side, I will admit.”

“Only you’ll let me—for this time?” Mr. Ashe’s hand went to his pocket again. “After all, I am a visiting uncle, and the position carries with it certain time-honored privileges.”

So it was that when Blue Bonnet ran up to her room that noon, she found a good-sized paper parcel on her dressing-table, and on top of the parcel a little old-fashioned beaded purse, and in the purse a bright five-dollar gold piece.

For a moment, Blue Bonnet stood looking down at the purse and its contents with sober eyes; she had seen the little purse before, when the private drawer of her aunt’s desk had chanced to be left open.

Blue Bonnet went in search of Miss Lucinda, finding her in the garden with Denham.

“I came to thank you, Aunt Lucinda,” she held out the purse; “I sha’n’t give this one away.”

“That is what I hoped. A very dear old friend made it for your mother, when she was about your age.”

192 “It was mamma’s?” Blue Bonnet’s face flushed; then she asked—“You know what is inside?”

“You must thank your uncle for that,” Miss Lucinda said; “I am not at all sure that I approve,” but she smiled as she said it.

Mr. Ashe was on the veranda. “I got permission,” he laughed, as Blue Bonnet held the purse up before him. “Honey, I’ve been cogitating matters. I reckon your aunt’s right; the Blue Bonnet Ranch wouldn’t be what it is to-day if your father hadn’t taught himself to look ahead a bit. It isn’t an easy lesson for an Ashe to learn, I’ll grant you.”

“I reckon Aunt Lucinda is generally right,” Blue Bonnet admitted; “that’s the worst of it sometimes.”

“Alec,” she questioned that afternoon, as he overtook her on her way from school, “have you ever tried for this ‘Sargent prize’ they’re all beginning to talk about now?”

“Won it—last year.”

“You’ve never told me about it?”

“N-no; I didn’t think you were much interested in such things.”

“Was it hard?”

“Not very. I didn’t go in with any expectation of winning. It’s only a glorified compo; you can choose your own subject, but it must be something connected more or less with local history.”

193 “Has Woodford a local history? The real history-book kind?”

“Shades of my ancestors! And yours! Has Woodford any local history!!”

“Bother. I hate writing compos anyway.”

“It’s a Woodford tradition—trying for it.”

“Who started such a tiresome business?”

“An old chap named John Sargent—years and years ago. He left a fund to be used for that express purpose.”

“I hope he’s repented since; he’s had time to. Why didn’t he leave his money for something sensible—a gym, for instance?”

“Perhaps in his time they went in more for high thinking than high swinging. You can’t compete until you’ve reached a certain grade—the one you’ll be in, after the coming exams.”


“After that you can try each grade. There’s one for the girls and one for the boys; conditions the same.”

“Are you going to try this time?”

“Grandfather will expect me to. Besides, when you are in Woodford, do as—”

“You like,” Blue Bonnet cut in.

“I’m afraid that is hardly a Woodford sentiment.”

“As if I didn’t know that! Will you come for a ride? I suppose Uncle Cliff’s gone in town.”

194 “It’ll have to be a short ride,” she said, as, a few moments later, Victor and Darrel’s mare started off. “I wish Aunt Lucinda wasn’t so fond of saying, just as one’s starting off, ‘Remember, Blue Bonnet, in before dark!’ It does get dark so early now.”

“But if she didn’t say it—would you remember?” Alec laughed.

“I don’t see why a forgettory isn’t just as desirable as a memory,” Blue Bonnet protested. “I’ve got such a good one.”

“Aunt Lucinda,” she asked at supper that evening, “did you ever try for the ‘Sargent prize?’”

“Won it three years running,” Mrs. Clyde answered for her daughter.

“Oh, me!” Blue Bonnet buttered her biscuit thoughtfully. “Wasn’t that mighty hard on the others, Grandmother?”

“I am afraid it was, dear.”

It seemed to Blue Bonnet that she could see the long line of unsuccessful aspirants drawn up on one side, and on the other, Aunt Lucinda—successful, triumphant. And, oh, dear, she felt sure that they would expect her to try. It would be so stupid! All the “We are Seven’s” fussing over a tiresome prize—everybody talking, dreaming, thinking compos!

“If people will go in for such things there ought to be consolation prizes, too. Aunt Lucinda,195 I’ve the loveliest plan—I mean to give the ‘We are Seven’s’ the time of their lives on Saturday.”

“To do what—Blue Bonnet!”

“The ‘rankin’ off—’ Miss Rankin says—when we’re writing our papers, to first find out what we want to say—and then say it. Just snippy little words—like treat, or good time—wouldn’t half express what I mean, Aunt Lucinda. You see,” Blue Bonnet went on rather hurriedly, “getting this five dollars was like what Uncle Joe calls finding money; and it has only got to last me until the first of the month, so I can—”

“Elizabeth!” Miss Lucinda exclaimed; and at her tone, Mrs. Clyde suddenly dropped her napkin—not on Blue Bonnet’s side of the table—and was rather slow about picking it up.

“I’ve had to be so skimpy lately,” Blue Bonnet explained. “Grandmother, why didn’t you tell me? It’ll feel good to be able to cut loose again!”

“In what direction were you thinking of ‘cutting loose,’ Blue Bonnet?” Mrs. Clyde asked.

“I beg your pardon, Grandmother! I didn’t know how horrid that was, until you said it! I—I thought, if we seven could go in town—Uncle Cliff would take us. And that perhaps, we might go to a matinée. Just think! Sarah’s never been to the theater! It’d do her a lot of good! Of course I’d have to let Uncle Cliff pay our way in and out.”

196 “Shall we talk it over later, after study-time?” Grandmother said, rising from the table.

Blue Bonnet lingered, she wished Aunt Lucinda wouldn’t look so—so annoyed. “Is slang very dreadful, Aunt Lucinda?” she asked. “All the girls use it.”

“Are you offering that as a reason, Elizabeth?”

“I reckon I was,” Blue Bonnet answered.

“It hardly seems a sufficient one to me.”

“But it’s like taking a short cut—one doesn’t always want to go ’round. Alec says that lots of to-day’s slang will be recognized English by and by.”

“I certainly hope Alec may prove a false prophet in this case.”

Blue Bonnet went for her books; there were times when Aunt Lucinda was exceedingly—difficult.

“Blue Bonnet,” her grandmother said, when just before bedtime Blue Bonnet came for their promised talk, “don’t you want to share your good fortune with someone who really needs it? None of you ‘We are Seven’s’ will lack for Thanksgiving cheer.”

“Oh, I would love that! I never once thought of doing that. Grandmother, sometimes I can’t help being glad that some day I’ll be—well, not exactly poor. It’s such fun giving things to people.”

“Better than fun, Blue Bonnet. And the best thing about it is that you needn’t wait until you are grown-up, and ‘not exactly poor.’ Only, dear, you197 must learn to give time and thought as well as money—

“‘Not what we give, but what we share,—
For the gift without the giver is bare.’”

Blue Bonnet looked into the fire with eyes half grave, half eager. “Grandmother,” she said at last, “will you show me—how?”

“To the best of my ability, dear.”

Blue Bonnet came down to breakfast the next morning full of the new idea.

“Grandmother knows of such a poor family,” she told her uncle; “I’m to send them their Thanksgiving turkey; we’re going together to buy it after school.”

Mr. Ashe glanced towards Miss Lucinda; he hoped that she properly appreciated what it was Blue Bonnet intended doing with her gold piece.

“I am afraid,” Mrs. Clyde remarked, “that Blue Bonnet, in her present enthusiasm, is somewhat inclined to look upon the troubles of the Patterson family in the light of a personal blessing.”

“You see,” Blue Bonnet was quite forgetting to eat her breakfast, “I’ve never known any really poor people—the kind one reads about. I think it must be sort of interesting—being poor.”

“For them?” her aunt asked.

“I should think it might be, Aunt Lucinda. It198 must be—a bit exciting, not being quite positive whether you are going to have any dinner, or not. And then, think what a lot of trouble they’re saved, not having a crowd of things to take care of and keep in order!”

“Bureau drawers, to wit?” Mrs. Clyde laughed.

“What I should like,” Blue Bonnet remarked, “would be a bureau without any drawers and a closet without any shelves.”

“My dear,” her aunt warned, “do you see what time it is getting to be?” Blue Bonnet glanced at the clock, then settled down to the business of breakfast. Aunt Lucinda had very definite ideas as to the proper length of time to be given to a meal; whatever hurrying was done was not to be done at the table.

“Would you mind walking pretty fast, Uncle Cliff?” Blue Bonnet asked, as they started out together.

But in spite of this precaution, she got there just in time to catch the first notes of the opening march, and to see the monitor for the day closing the door. That meant that she must wait in the outer hall until morning exercises were over.

Well, what couldn’t be cured must be endured; Blue Bonnet sat down on the stairs to plan the afternoon’s expedition.

Grandmother had said that the Pattersons were certainly poor, even if Patterson, Senior, was not199 particularly worthy. Blue Bonnet felt that she should not so much mind being poor, but she would hate to be described as “worthy.”

It was a little disappointing, however—though, of course, not for him—that Mr. Patterson was neither sick, nor out of work; merely burdened with a large family, and (Grandmother had been obliged to admit) rather lazy.

She was glad there was a large family, and that she was to give them their turkey; it was very stupid, having school the day before Thanksgiving! She would have liked to be present at the packing of those baskets, which were always sent out at Thanksgiving from the Clyde place.

There, they were opening the doors at last! Blue Bonnet got up with a little sigh; she did hope Miss Rankin would prove amenable. She was the only one late in her room.

Fortunately, Miss Rankin accepted the offered explanation very kindly, merely suggesting that another morning Blue Bonnet should allow herself more time.

“A minute does make a whole lot of difference, doesn’t it?” Blue Bonnet’s smile was most insinuating.

“When it is on the wrong side of nine o’clock,” Miss Rankin agreed, and Blue Bonnet went to her seat, utterly refusing to notice Kitty’s mocking uplift of the eyebrows.

200 On the whole, it was not a successful day. Blue Bonnet drew a long breath of relief that afternoon, when the bell rang for dismission, and she had not been requested to remain.

“I reckon that was a pretty close shave,” she rejoiced, as the “We are Seven’s” crossed the yard together.

“It was!” Debby agreed.

“You’ve got the ‘rankin’ officer’ clean bewitched!” Ruth laughed. “Hasn’t she, girls?”

“We’ll have to begin calling her ‘teacher’s pet’ soon,” Kitty declared.

“I’ll never come when I’m called, then,” Blue Bonnet retorted.

“What’s been the matter with you to-day?” Amanda questioned.

“Nothing—except that I’ve had more important things to think about than—”

“But, Blue Bonnet,” Sarah interposed gravely, “I don’t think—”

“Why publish the fact broadcast, Sarah?” Kitty demanded.

Sarah surveyed the impertinent Kitty disapprovingly. “As I have said before, Kitty, sometimes you are positively rude.”

“And Sarah always speaks the truth!” Blue Bonnet laughed.

“Children! Children!” Susy protested. “First thing you know, you’ll have a quarrel on.”

201 “It takes two to make a quarrel,” Sarah said, with considerable dignity.

“But only one to start one,” Kitty added; “and I’d just as lieve be that one as not. Think of it! No school until Monday morning! We ought to celebrate!”

“We’re going to to-morrow,” Debby said; “and let’s have a good long ride Friday and Saturday, too.”

“Wouldn’t it be wiser to get together one afternoon and study up?” Sarah suggested. “I’m weak in my algebra.”

“You’re a great deal weaker in your ideas of how a holiday should be spent!” Blue Bonnet exclaimed. “Oh, I forgot! Grandmother will be waiting! Good-bye, everybody—and some of you take prompt measures with Sarah if she starts any more such horrid schemes!”

Blue Bonnet found Mrs. Clyde waiting in the sitting-room, while Denham drove slowly back and forth before the door.

“I’m so sorry!” Blue Bonnet apologized. “I’ll be ready in no time, Grandmother.”

She settled herself back beside her grandmother presently with one of her little sighs. “It’s been such a tiresome day!”

“And the trouble, Blue Bonnet?”

“Me—mostly,” the girl answered, with the frankness that was apt to prove disarming.

202 “Isn’t that a pity, dear?”

“I reckon so. I surely have ‘relapsed’ a lot to-day; but it won’t happen again—before next Monday. Grandmother, won’t all the best turkeys be gone by now?”

“I asked Mr. Ford to save us a good one, Blue Bonnet.”

“You think of everything! I suppose Uncle Cliff went in town?”

“Only for an hour or two, he said,” Mrs. Clyde answered.

Blue Bonnet thoroughly enjoyed that afternoon’s experience. Mr. Ford had saved them a fine turkey; but the turkey was not the only purchase to be made.

Blue Bonnet produced the list she had made out during algebra lesson. “I put down all the things I thought I should like if I were poor and someone were to send me a Thanksgiving dinner,” she said.

Mrs. Clyde smiled as she studied the list. “Suppose,” she said, “that in place of the fruit and candy, we substitute sugar and coffee—two articles always most welcome.”

There was a quick gleam of laughter in Blue Bonnet’s eyes. “But I thought they were mostly children,—and that you and Aunt Lucinda did not approve of coffee for—young people?” It was a point on which Blue Bonnet was still a little unreconciled; coffee—and very weak coffee at that at Sunday morning breakfast only, was the rule at203 the Clyde place, with reference to young folks. Blue Bonnet’s protests, that on the ranch she could have had it three times a day if she had wished, had not altered matters in the least.

Grandmother’s lips twitched ever so slightly at the corners now. “Still there are the father and mother, Blue Bonnet. This is to be an all-round basket, isn’t it?”

“But you’ll let the cranberries stand, Grandmother? It wouldn’t be at all a proper Thanksgiving dinner without them!”

“Certainly. And for that very reason—all the more need of the sugar.”

It was dusk before they reached the little house on the outskirts of the town; Mr. Ford had offered to send the basket, but Blue Bonnet had looked so disappointed at the mere thought of this that Mrs. Clyde said they would take it themselves.

It was a bare, forlorn little house, standing by itself at the top of a low hill and looking more than usually dreary in the gray November twilight, with the wind rattling the loosely hanging blinds, and tossing the leafless branches of the bent and twisted old trees.

Two or three dogs came barking about the carriage as Denham drew up before the open gate; their noise brought a woman to the kitchen door.

“Is it you, ma’am?” she said, coming quickly204 down the path, followed by any number of small, untidy children.

“This is ‘Miss Elizabeth’s’ daughter, Jenny,” Mrs. Clyde said. Jenny Patterson had been second girl at the Clyde’s before her marriage and a favorite with her mistress, who had never lost sight of her. “She has come to bring the children some Thanksgiving.”

“And I’m sure we’re most grateful to her for doin’ it.” Mrs. Patterson looked up at Blue Bonnet a little curiously. “I’ve been wantin’ to see ‘Miss Elizabeth’s’ girl; I’ve heard tell a powerful lot about her.”

Blue Bonnet laughed. “I didn’t know I was so famous! I suppose the children like turkey?”

“That they do, miss! Though it’d begun to look like they weren’t goin’ to have any this year. Patterson ain’t been takin’ much heart in things lately. He’s kind—Patterson is, but I ain’t denyin’ he’s easy discouraged.”

Denham had carried the basket indoors, not unattended; and his short cough now, as he gathered up the reins again, said as plainly as words that it was quite time he was getting his horses home.

“We must go now, Jenny,” Mrs. Clyde said. “Good night.”

“Good night, ma’am; thank you and the young lady most kindly,” Jenny answered.

205 “I hope the children will like their basket,” Blue Bonnet said. “It wouldn’t be the least interesting, being that kind of poor,” she remarked a few moments later, as the horses trotted briskly off in the direction of home and supper. “That would be the difficulty, I suppose; one couldn’t choose one’s kind.” She was not very talkative during the rest of the drive; she was trying to picture to herself the unpacking of the basket—the children’s eager little faces.

“Grandmother,” she said, as they were nearing home, “I’m going to start a ‘mercy box,’ like Sarah has; I’ll take that china bank—you know, the little red and white house on the bracket in my room?—and I’ll put in something every week. Then if I do get low in funds, myself, I’ll have something on hand for—other things.”

“I think that would be an excellent idea, Blue Bonnet,” Mrs. Clyde answered.

Then the carriage turned into the drive, and Solomon was leaping and barking about it; the lights indoors were throwing long shadows out across the lawn, and on the steps, Uncle Cliff was waiting to welcome them.

“We’ve had a beautiful time, haven’t we, Grandmother?” Blue Bonnet said. “It’s been every bit as nice as I thought it would be.”

“I am glad you have enjoyed it, dear,” Mrs. Clyde responded; “I am sure I have.”

206 “My, but I am hungry!” Blue Bonnet slipped an arm through her uncle’s as they went indoors. “Do you suppose Katie has waffles for supper?”

Katie had made waffles, and after supper Blue Bonnet, having done her full duty by them, decided to pay a visit to the kitchen to tell her how nice they had been, and to compare to-morrow’s turkey with the one bought for the Pattersons.

Blue Bonnet and Katie were on excellent terms, and in Blue Bonnet’s opinion the big, comfortable kitchen, with its old-fashioned oak dresser and rows of shining tins, was one of the most delightful spots in the whole house.

“It isn’t much like ours at home,” she said now. “I wonder what Lisa would say to it.”

“And how would yours be like this, miss, with only a heathen sort of body to look after it?” Katie remarked.

“But Lisa isn’t a heathen sort of body! She’s a nice, fat old dear! And she can make tamales!”

“You come look at these, miss!” Katie led the way to the great pantry, pointing proudly to one of the shelves, where stood five small pies in a row—mince, pumpkin, apple, cranberry, custard.

“Oh, how cute!” Blue Bonnet cried delightedly. “Are they for me?”

“And who else would they be for? ’Tis some use, keeping holiday now, with a young body in the house.”

207 “There’ll be two to-morrow; Alec’s coming to dinner. What made you think of these, Katie, you darling?”

“’Twas me aunt—who was cook here afore me—always made the little pies at Thanksgiving time, miss.”

“For my mother?” Blue Bonnet asked softly.

“For both the young ladies in their time, miss.”

Blue Bonnet looked down at the little pies again. Of course, Aunt Lucinda had been young once; somehow, it was hard to realize her having little pies made for her. Had she used to come down here to the pantry the night before Thanksgiving to inspect them? Perhaps, with mamma—who would have been ever so much smaller—standing on tiptoe to “see too.”

“Do you know, Solomon,” Blue Bonnet said, meeting him in the hall on her way back to the sitting-room, and sitting down on the stairs for a short chat, “things like that do—somehow—seem to alter one’s viewpoint; now don’t they?”



So, sir,” Blue Bonnet pointed a warning forefinger at the upright Solomon, “remember, this is the day when Aunt Lucinda expects everyone—particularly, small brown dogs and nieces from Texas—to do their duty! The Boston relatives are coming. I can’t exactly explain all that stands for, Solomon; but I am quite sure it means that they are to be taken seriously—very seriously; and I’m afraid, old fellow, that taking folks seriously isn’t our long suit.”

Solomon looked distinctly bored; here was the eventful day, and though the morning was well along, there was still no sign of dinner—outside of the kitchen, that is; and Solomon had found, to his pained surprise, that the attitude of the kitchen was, on this morning of all mornings, decidedly discouraging to a small dog.

“Dinner’s to be at three,” Blue Bonnet went on; “you needn’t sit up any longer, sir.”

Solomon availed himself of this permission gladly, pricking up his ears at the mention of dinner; the subject began to get interesting.

“But the relatives come on the noon train—there209 are three of them, Solomon; Cousin Tracy Winthrop, Cousin Honoria Winthrop, and Cousin Augusta Winthrop! It sounds a bit alarming, doesn’t it? And oh, Solomon!” Blue Bonnet scrambled to her feet. “I haven’t done a thing to my room yet, and I’m to go to ride with Uncle Cliff directly.”

Solomon tiptoed upstairs behind her, rejoicing in the fact that it was not a school day, and that there was a ride in prospect.

“Excepting Saturdays and Sundays, this is the first holiday I’ve had since starting school,” Blue Bonnet told him. “Oh me, did you ever see such a room!”

Sitting full in a spot of sunshine, Solomon listened and watched operations, blinking at the rapidity with which his young mistress went from one thing to another.

Miss Lucinda had not yet been able to make Blue Bonnet realize the advisability of putting things as much as possible in order over night. “I’d give a good bit to see Benita come walking in that door just about now!” Blue Bonnet declared, giving the bedspread a smoothing touch. “But it won’t be Benita, it’ll be Aunt Lucinda. And what do you think she’ll say at finding you in possession, young man?”

Solomon’s manner implied that he willingly shifted all responsibility on to her shoulders.

210 “I wonder what I’d’ve been like now—supposing I had been sent East years ago—as Aunt Lucinda wanted?” Blue Bonnet said.

Before her companion had time to consider this, Miss Lucinda appeared.

“Solomon!” Blue Bonnet commanded, “your manners!”

Solomon advanced, holding up a paw politely.

Miss Lucinda took it, then she looked at Solomon’s mistress. “I draw the line at my room, Blue Bonnet.”

“Thank you so much, Aunt Lucinda, for not drawing it—any closer. You hear that, Solomon?”

“To hear is not always to obey, with Solomon,” Aunt Lucinda commented. “Your uncle is waiting for you, Blue Bonnet.”

“I won’t be a jiffy now!” Blue Bonnet went to the closet for her habit. “Fortunately, Uncle Cliff never seems to mind my keeping him waiting; I reckon he’s used to it.”

“I should call that very unfortunate, my dear; not to say, wanting in proper respect to Mr. Ashe.”

Blue Bonnet looked amazed. “I never thought of it in that way!”

“Uncle Cliff,” she asked, as they cantered briskly off down the drive, Solomon pelting along behind, “do you mind my keeping you waiting?”

211 “I’ve always supposed it was the way with women—young or old.”

“Then you do mind! Why didn’t you say so? Have you thought it ‘lacking in proper respect,’ too?”

“Bless your heart, no, indeed! Is that what you’ve been looking so sober over, Honey?”

But Blue Bonnet continued to look sober. “There’s such a lot to what Grandmother calls ‘one’s duty to one’s neighbor.’ Do you reckon I’ll ever be able to learn it all?”

“I don’t see how your mother’s daughter could very well help it, Honey.”

Blue Bonnet stroked the mare’s neck thoughtfully, looking out across the bare fields, a wistful look in her eyes—“I wonder why mothers and fathers have to—go away? One needs them so. I’m not forgetting,” she turned to Mr. Ashe, “how I have you, and Grandmother, and Aunt Lucinda, only—”

“I understand, Blue Bonnet.”

Blue Bonnet was looking out over the fields again; they looked gray and deserted, and the wind blowing across them was bleak and raw. Along the hills the clouds lay thick and lowering; Denham prophesied snow before another twenty-four hours. The few sparrows hopping forlornly from fence to fence had their feathers all ruffled the wrong way.

It was all very dreary, Blue Bonnet thought;212 and to-morrow Uncle Cliff would be off to New York without her, and in just a little while longer he would be going back to the ranch without her.

Blue Bonnet gave herself an impatient shake; her immediate duty to her immediate neighbor hardly consisted in spoiling his ride for him. “Don’t you want to give me a good old Texas run, Uncle Cliff?”

“And have folks think we’re being run away with, Honey?”

“There isn’t anyone around—I reckon they’re all home either getting the turkey ready, or getting ready for the turkey. And if there was, it wouldn’t matter.” Blue Bonnet gave the mare the word; the next instant she was off, laughing back at him over her shoulder.

“She’s almost as good as Firefly, isn’t she?” she asked, as her uncle caught up with her.

“She’s a pretty decent little horse, all right.”

“I wish she had a regular name. Darrel just calls her Pet,—and Lady.”

“Why don’t you name her?”

“I shall—now that Darrel’s going to let me have her right along. I’m glad you’ve seen to that.”

“Yes, I’ve seen to that. Don’t you want another scamper, Honey?”

Blue Bonnet pointed with her whip at a square213 white stone by the side of the road. “Do you see that?”

“The milestone?”

“Do you see how many miles it says we are from Woodford? And I promised to be in by half-past one at the latest! Indeed I do want a run—but it’ll have to be in the direction of home. It must be original sin, and nothing less, that always sets me traveling whenever it’s most necessary I should be at home.”

“Don’t you worry, we’ll get there in time,” Mr. Ashe promised; and they did get back just as the tall clock in the hall was striking the half hour.

From the sitting-room came the murmur of voices. “The Boston relatives,” Blue Bonnet whispered, her finger on her lips, and beckoned Solomon back, as he was trotting on in, on hospitable thoughts intent.

“We must make ourselves presentable first,” she told him.

On her bed, Blue Bonnet found her white serge laid out ready; she hadn’t worn it yet. It was next to the red she had given away—the prettiest of her new gowns.

“You see, sir,” she confided to Solomon, “this is an Occasion—with a big O.”

But standing before the glass to unbraid her hair, Blue Bonnet had what she considered a sudden inspiration.

214 The next moment, she was kneeling on her closet floor, diving eagerly into the big box, where she kept certain of her most treasured possessions. “Solomon Clyde Ashe!” she cried, excitedly, “I’ve such a surprise in store for them!”

Fifteen minutes later when Delia knocked at her door, Blue Bonnet resolutely declined to open it. “I’ll be down presently,” she said through the keyhole.

“But Miss Clyde told me, miss—”

“I don’t need any help, thank you, Delia!” Blue Bonnet insisted.

“But your aunt said I was to—”

“I’m getting on beautifully! Please go away, Delia. And—Delia, please don’t—say anything.”

Delia hesitated; there was mystery and, it was to be feared, mischief in the very air. “It’s past two now, Miss Blue Bonnet! And Miss Clyde said—she—she’ll be wanting you to look your best, I’m thinking.”

“I’ll look—you’ll see how I’ll look!”

Which was cold comfort in Delia’s opinion. She retired, in much uneasiness of mind, to the kitchen, devoutly hoping Miss Lucinda would not invade those premises.

“’Deed and she do be big enough to dress herself,” Katie comforted, not referring, however, to Miss Lucinda.

“’Tis up to something she is!” Delia declared.

215 Katie gave the big turkey an affectionate glance before closing the oven door. “Did you ever see such a beauty! And cooking like a Christian! Leave off worrying, Delia; ’tis no harm she’s up to!”

The tall clock in the hall was striking half-past two when Blue Bonnet came downstairs. Grandmother, wondering a little anxiously why she did not come, caught the soft swish of skirts.

It seemed to Grandmother that she took an unusually long time to cross the short space between the foot of the stairs and the sitting-room door; then all at once, she gave a little gasp of astonishment.

Standing in the doorway, in quaint, old-fashioned, red satin gown, with high-heeled satin slippers, and stockings to match, a black lace mantilla thrown lightly over the hair, dressed high, with a great carved Spanish comb, a red rose showing coquettishly above the left ear, on her slender fingers two or three Mexican rings in old-time setting, and around her throat a string of heavy gold beads, Blue Bonnet bore as little resemblance to the white-clad figure Grandmother had been expecting to see as she did to the laughing, bare-headed girl who had come rushing up the drive little more than an hour before, her hair flying in the wind.

For a moment no one in the room stirred or216 spoke, then Mr. Ashe cried delightedly, “Why Honey!”

The “Boston relatives” looked from Grandmother to Aunt Lucinda, from Aunt Lucinda to the demure-faced figure in the doorway. They had been prepared for a mere schoolgirl—someone very like what her mother had been at her age. It was difficult to imagine Elizabeth Clyde in such a costume as that.

Grandmother made the introductions. Aunt Lucinda was still asking herself why, oh, why she had not taken possession of that costume upon Blue Bonnet’s first showing it to her?

Then the General and Alec came in, creating a diversion for which Blue Bonnet, who was feeling rather breathless, for all her brave showing, was truly grateful.

“My dear young lady,” General Trent turned to her, after paying his respects to the rest—“or, I should say, Señorita?—this is a surprise!”

“To all of us, General,” Mrs. Clyde said. “On the whole, I think I like it.”

Blue Bonnet came to rest a hand on her grandmother’s shoulder. “Truly, Grandmother?” she asked softly. “I—hoped you would.”

“Isn’t she stunning!” Alec exclaimed.

When Delia came to announce dinner a few moments later, she broke off suddenly in the middle217 of her sentence—much to her own confusion—to stare open-eyed at Blue Bonnet.

“If you could see her!” she said to Katie, escaping as soon as might be to the kitchen. “Sitting there like a picture—and that innocent! For all the world as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth! ‘And please don’t say anything,’ says she to me—and well she might! I’d like to be knowing what her aunt do be thinking of such goings-on this minute.”

“I’m after thinking,” Katie remarked wisely, “that the mistress herself do be enjoying the bit of a lark with the best of them. Sure and it isn’t the same house, since the darlin’ came.”

Meanwhile, Blue Bonnet found herself placed between the eldest of those “Boston relatives” and Alec. She had never seen anyone before quite like this elderly gentleman, whom it seemed almost disrespectful to call “Cousin Tracy,” even though he had told her to.

He should have looked old, but he didn’t; she supposed he was what Aunt Lucinda called “well preserved”; and she wondered, a dancing light in her eyes, if perhaps he was not looking upon her as being something of a “pickle.”

“Mayn’t I share the good thought, Señorita?” Mr. Winthrop asked.

Blue Bonnet looked confused. This was what218 came of letting one’s thoughts run away with one before people.

“Do you know,” she said, hurriedly, “this is my first real New England Thanksgiving.”

“Was that the reason you appeared in Spanish costume?”

“You asked that just the way Aunt Lucinda asks things sometimes! It must be a Boston fashion.”

“Possibly. And how are you enjoying your ‘New England Thanksgiving’?”

Blue Bonnet looked thoughtfully up and down the long table, with Grandmother at the head and Aunt Lucinda at the foot. The shades had been drawn and the only light came from the wax candles in the tall silver candelabra on table and mantel. They cast a soft, mellow light about the room and over the perfectly appointed table, in the centre of which stood the best Blue Canton bowl, filled with great, tawny chrysanthemums.

“I like it,” she said slowly, finding it hard to express her feeling; “it is so—homey and—familified. I like to think of how many Thanksgiving dinners must have been held in this very room—I don’t mean just the dinner part—anyone can have turkey and such things—but the way in which it has been done—like to-day. And it is nice to be part Clyde, isn’t it?”

“Very; though it is an honor I can lay no claim to.”

219 Blue Bonnet laughed; she liked Cousin Tracy, he treated her as if she were quite grown-up. “But the Winthrops are—” she hesitated.

“We think they—are. But we have been accused of being over proud—where family is concerned.”

Blue Bonnet waited to exchange a smile with Uncle Cliff, seated opposite between Cousin Honoria and Cousin Augusta, and apparently getting on very well with them both. “Grandmother was a Winthrop,” she said, then,—“and it’s Aunt Lucinda’s middle name. Names count for a good deal back here, don’t they?”

“Or what they stand for.”

“Ashe stands for a good deal out in Texas.”

“See here!” Alec protested in an undertone, “I didn’t think you were the sort to go back on an old friend.”

“I thought you were talking to Aunt Lucinda,” Blue Bonnet answered.

“If not the rose—you know the rest!”

“Did you tell Aunt Lucinda that?”

“I’d be so apt to.”

“Alec, do you realize how long we have been sitting here? I’m getting dreadfully tired, aren’t you? I wish grandmother would announce fifteen minutes for recess, and insist—like the ‘rankin’ officer’ does—on our all getting out into the fresh air.”

220 “For a game of tag? I can imagine your elderly relative seconding the motion!”

“A little motion would do him and us all a lot of good. He’s really awfully nice, Alec; and he hasn’t once asked me how I like Woodford. I’m so tired of answering that question; I’ve even thought of getting my answer printed on little slips of paper and handing one to every new person I meet.”

“Oh, but there’s time yet! The turkey is just going off, having gone off considerably—before going off. And experience teaches me that there is more to follow.”

“I begin to understand why Thanksgiving is kept only once a year.”

“Why, Señorita?” the General asked, overhearing the remark.

“It is so perfectly lovely to be called ‘Señorita!’” Blue Bonnet assured him; “I haven’t been called that since Benita said good-bye to me, until to-day.”

“But you haven’t answered General Trent’s question, Blue Bonnet,” Miss Lucinda reminded her.

“I—was trying not to, Aunt Lucinda!” Blue Bonnet answered.

There was a laugh, then the General said, “I withdraw it, Señorita,” and the talk drifted off to other things.

221 “Break number two,” Blue Bonnet confided to Alec.

“People shouldn’t ask questions,” he comforted her,—“unexpected questions like that.”

“N—no,” Blue Bonnet agreed. “Sometimes I think it ought to be—‘elders should be seen and not heard.’”

At last came desert, with the nuts and raisins; Mrs. Clyde, taking pity on Blue Bonnet, suggested that the young people take theirs off to the back parlor.

“Isn’t Grandmother the dearest!” Blue Bonnet said, as she and Alec settled themselves in two big chairs before the fire.

“She’s all right!” Alec answered. “I’ve a piece of news for you, my lady.”

Blue Bonnet caught the almonds he tossed her. “Good?”

“I’ve a cousin coming to stay with us; he’s been at school in New York and—”

“I’m glad; he’s a he!”

“Could a ‘he’ be a she?”

“Because—there are such a lot of ‘she’s’ in Woodford!”

“The female population of Massachusetts is—”

“A good deal in evidence,” Blue Bonnet interpolated. “What’s your cousin’s name?”

“Boyd Trent. His people are going abroad—he’s to stay here until summer.”

222 “And go to school with you?”


“How old is he?”

“Three or four months younger than ‘yours truly.’”

“Then he’ll come between you and me.”

“I hope not.”

“As far as age goes—I don’t see how you can help it.” It seemed to Blue Bonnet, thinking it over afterwards, that Alec showed very little enthusiasm over his cousin’s coming. At the time, however, she hardly noticed it.

Going to the piano, she began playing snatches of old Spanish songs, in which one caught the tinkling of the guitar,—the gay sound of the castanets. But presently, she slipped gradually off into softer, more plaintive music. Music, it seemed to Alec, that must have been written by some exile, longing for the home he had left.

Blue Bonnet had quite forgotten him; when at last he spoke to her, and she turned to answer, it was to find her audience considerably enlarged.

“You are not going to stop, Señorita?” the General asked. He was not the only one to find both playing and player attractive.

Mrs. Clyde’s eyes were turned upon the slender, brilliantly clad, little figure opposite with an expression in them that made Miss Lucinda sigh softly to herself.

223 Between them all, they kept her there playing for them until Cousin Honoria declared it was quite unfair—the poor child would be tired out.

“But when you come to stay with us in Boston,” Cousin Augusta added, “we shall want you to play for us again. You will come for a week end some-time—even if we are all old people? We will try not to have it too dull for you. Tracy will show you his collections—he has several very fine collections.”

“I’d love to,” Blue Bonnet answered; she came to sit between the two little gentlewomen on the old-fashioned high-backed davenport. They were not in the least formidable; she thought she should like them very much.

Then she leaned forward with one of her eager movements; the talk had suddenly turned on Texas; Mr. Ashe was telling of ranch life out there.

Closing her eyes, Blue Bonnet could almost fancy herself back in the big ranch house living-room. How the wind would be howling about the weather-stained house to-night. And how lonesome Uncle Joe Terry and Benita must be without Uncle Cliff and her.

It occurred to Blue Bonnet that she had not given much thought to that side of the question. She would write a good long letter to them both to-morrow, telling them all about her day, and how224 she had worn her Spanish dress, and how everyone liked Uncle Cliff so much.

It was later that Cousin Tracy asked—as the good nights were being said—“By the way, Señorita, you have not told me how you like our East?”

“Did you put him up to it?” Blue Bonnet demanded, cornering Alec.

“Not I,” the boy laughed.

“At least he didn’t say ‘Woodford.’ But why did he call it ‘our East’?”

“Ask him,” Alec advised.

“Solomon,” Blue Bonnet remarked, when Alec and the General had gone, and she was paying her good night visit to the basket under the back stairs where Solomon slept, “I hope you have enjoyed your Thanksgiving as much as I have mine.”

Solomon, who had fared less wisely than too well, grunted sleepily; Solomon felt that the only fault to be found with Thanksgiving was that it did not come oftener.

Cousin Honoria and Cousin Augusta had gone upstairs; their brother was taking a short turn on the veranda with Mr. Ashe. Blue Bonnet went into the sitting-room, where Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda lingered, talking over the events of the day.

“And how,” Grandmother asked, “have you225 enjoyed your ‘first real New England Thanksgiving’?”

“Immensely!” Blue Bonnet answered.

“It is the first for me that has not been entirely ‘New England.’” Mrs. Clyde’s glance rested on Blue Bonnet’s dress.

“But you said you liked it?”

Grandmother’s smile was reassuring.

Blue Bonnet turned to her aunt. “And—?” Aunt Lucinda had not expressed her opinion as yet; Blue Bonnet hoped she had not been holding it in reserve.

“I think we have all had a very pleasant day—though it has held its surprises—for some of us,” Miss Lucinda said.

“I don’t know why I did it!” Blue Bonnet explained, “I just took the notion, I suppose. I’m afraid Benita would think I had done my hair up very badly—she’s always done it for me before. And I should have worn the earrings—I have them, great gold ones, with pearl pendants—but I’ve never had my ears pierced; papa didn’t like it. Benita used to tie them for me, so one could hardly tell—but I hadn’t the patience—nor the time.”

Miss Lucinda felt that the day had held its unknown blessings—they had been spared the earrings. “I think the costume was quite complete enough without the earrings,” she said.

226 “I won’t wear any of it again, if you’d rather not,” Blue Bonnet offered, always ready to meet Aunt Lucinda halfway.

“Suppose we say, not without consulting your grandmother or me. And now,—suppose we say good night—Señorita.”

“I believe in my heart,” Blue Bonnet told her reflection in the glass, “that she really and truly liked it! I know the Boston relatives did. Poor dears!”

And in her own room, Miss Lucinda was owning to herself that the day, for one reason or another, had been different from all the long line of Thanksgivings stretching out behind her.

“Mother,” she said, coming to the half-open door between their rooms, “I’ve been thinking—how would it be to give Blue Bonnet a party—during Christmas week?”

“As a reward of merit?” Mrs. Clyde asked.

“Elizabeth used always to have her Christmas party,” Miss Lucinda answered. “We have not entertained, in that way, since she went West.”



The next morning Mr. Ashe left for New York. “I’ll be back in time to get that box off,” he promised; “you have your part all ready, Honey.”

Aunt Lucinda was going in town with the “Boston relatives.” “Everybody seems going somewhere, except you and me, Grandmother,” Blue Bonnet said, as she stood before the fire in the sitting-room on her return from the station. It was hard to settle down to the every day business of practising and so on.

“You will be riding this afternoon, dear,” Mrs. Clyde answered; and then Aunt Lucinda came down, ready for her trip.

She handed Blue Bonnet a little roll of crisp new bills. “For your Christmas shopping,” she explained. “I am not so unreasonable, my dear, as to expect your present allowance to cover that.”

Blue Bonnet’s face brightened; “I have been rather wondering—” she admitted. “This will do a lot, won’t it, Grandmother?”

228 “Doesn’t that depend?” Mrs. Clyde asked, with a smile.

“And it won’t be a bit too soon to begin, will it?”

“Too soon!” Miss Lucinda repeated. “My dear, I began last Spring!”

“I don’t think I should like that,” Blue Bonnet commented; “I think the hurry at the end is half the fun.”

“There is generally a fair amount of that in spite of all one’s planning,” Grandmother observed.

The talk during the ride that afternoon was largely of the coming Christmas. It pleased Kitty, for the moment, to treat Blue Bonnet as a mere novice in the art of Christmas shopping.

The latter’s reminder that even in Texas there were such things as stores was coolly ignored.

“You must make a list before leaving home,” Kitty insisted, “putting down the names of all the persons you intend giving presents to, and opposite the name the gift you have decided upon.”

“After that—according to Kitty’s own methods,” Debby interrupted, “you must either leave the list at home, or lose it as quickly as possible.”

“And even if you don’t do that,” Ruth said, “just as likely as not you can’t find the thing you’ve decided on.”

“I’ll settle with you two later,” Kitty warned. “Listen, Blue Bonnet. As soon as you’ve bought229 your present you must wrap it up in tissue paper and tie it prettily with ribbon and label it—”

“Right there in the store!” Blue Bonnet protested. “How inconvenient, Kitty!”

“To avoid confusion at the last,” Kitty finished, calmly.

“You wait till you’ve seen Kitty’s room day before Christmas!” Debby remarked.

“I’m making most of my presents,” Sarah said.

“I haven’t made up my mind,” Kitty flicked Black Pete lightly, “whether yours is an example to be followed, or shunned, Sarah. I’d hate to feel lonesome—the way you must.”

Sarah shifted herself in the saddle; she still found riding more of a duty than a pleasure—which Kitty declared was her principal reason for keeping on with it. “Lonesome!” she repeated, wonderingly, “what do you mean?”

“You remember what the poet says—” Kitty’s gray eyes were most demure—“‘Be good and you’ll be lonesome’?”

“Then you’ve never been lonesome, Kitty Clark!” Susy remarked.

Sarah was looking puzzled; she took her English literature very seriously. “I don’t remember any poet saying—”

“Never you mind, Sarah mia,” Blue Bonnet laughed; she checked the mare’s pace, making her—much against her will—keep step with230 Sarah’s horse. “Tell me what you’re making for Christmas? I wish I could make something, too—but my stupid fingers are all thumbs, when it comes to sewing.”

Sarah responded cordially. “It would be nice for you to make something to send back in your box, Blue Bonnet; they’d like it, I’m sure.”

“Grandmother,” Blue Bonnet said, that evening, “can you crochet?”

“I used to.”

“Shoulder shawls?”

“Those among other things.”

“Please—will you show me how? I want to make one for Benita. She’d love it.”

“Have you ever crocheted, Blue Bonnet?”

“Never—Benita tried to teach me to knit once, but it wasn’t a success.”

“Then wouldn’t it be wiser to begin with something simpler?”

“But there won’t be time for two things—and I know Benita would like the shawl. I’ll get the wools to-morrow.”

“There is some worsted and a needle in the lower drawer of my work table. If you like, you shall have your first lesson now, dear.”

Coming down stairs again, Blue Bonnet met Delia in the hall. “A letter for you, miss; one of the parsonage children just brought it up; it’d been sent there.”

231 Blue Bonnet read the address, wonderingly—

“‘Blue Bonnet,’

“Care of the Rev. Sam. Blake,

“Woodford, Mass.”

“Grandmother!” she exclaimed, “it must be from my ‘missionary-box’ girl!”

She opened the letter, with its Texas post-mark. “Shall I read it aloud, Grandmother?”

“I should like to hear it, dear.”

“I don’t know if Blue Bonnet is really your name,” the letter began, “but somehow, I can’t help hoping that it is. My name is Caroline Judson—but I am always called Carita; and I am writing to thank you for the lovely dress you sent me. Nothing like it ever came in any of our other boxes, and at first mother thought it must be a mistake, until we found your note and the purse in the pocket. And if you knew how I thank you for that, too!

“Now I can go Christmas shopping. I’m going to buy each of the boys a knife of his own—then they can all whittle at once. I wonder if you have any brothers? I have four—all younger than I am—but no sisters.

“I wonder a lot about you; I think, perhaps, you’ve gone East to school—that’s where father wants to send me—but that you love it out here in Texas best. I wish you would write to me—I never get any letters—and tell me how old you232 are, and what Woodford is like. Father says he is sure it has a public library—I wish we had one out here. Don’t you love to read, better than anything? I was fourteen last August and all the dress needed was to have a tuck taken in it, and that will make it all the longer getting too short for me. That’s a pretty mixed-up sentence, isn’t it? But you will know what I mean.

“Mother thinks I’d better stop writing now—as it is a first letter. It is so good to be writing to someone.

“Please believe me, very truly and gratefully,

“Carita Adeline Judson.”

“Grandmother!” Blue Bonnet folded up the letter, “Mayn’t I send Carita Adeline Judson a Christmas box?”

“If not a box—a Christmas remembrance, at least,” Grandmother answered.

“Please, a whole box! If you knew how jolly it was unpacking the ones you and Aunt Lucinda always sent! One can put all sorts of little things in a box—I’ll put in something for each of the boys—”

And during the lesson in crocheting which followed, Blue Bonnet planned enough boxes to have called for, Grandmother said, a whole car of their own.

233 She did not take readily to the lesson itself; but that was because she was thinking about something else, she explained.

“A good many ‘else’s,’ I am afraid,” Grandmother answered. “Better unravel that and start afresh.”

“It’s easier just to break it off,” Blue Bonnet suited the action to the word. “I wonder who invented crocheting! I think they might have found something better to do!”

“You are not discouraged already, Blue Bonnet!”

“Not ‘discouraged,’ Grandmother, but sort of—disgusted. I hope Benita properly appreciates her shawl. I wonder whether she would rather have a purple and crimson, or red and yellow? It’ll have to be bright-colored, in any case.”

Mrs. Clyde glanced at the pink worsted chain Blue Bonnet was making; at present, it resembled a corkscrew more closely than anything else. “Isn’t it a bit soon to decide upon the color?”

“I always want to get things settled as soon as possible; besides, I shall feel as if it were really started, once I have bought the wools,” Blue Bonnet urged.

As soon as the regulation Saturday duties were through with the next morning, she was off to buy her wools. They occupied the place of honor on the clubroom table that afternoon.

234 The snow predicted by Denham, though a trifle behind schedule time, had arrived in good earnest; there could be no riding that afternoon.

“And a very good thing, too!” Ruth remarked. “Now we shall have to work.” And presently, forming a circle about the pile of purple and crimson wools, were six work-bags of various sizes and hues.

There were other things on the table; Blue Bonnet’s pies, still intact, Mr. Ashe having deeded his share in them to the club; a dish of nuts and raisins and one of fruit.

“You must have ‘spent the hull ten-cent piece,’ Blue Bonnet!” Kitty said.

“We’re going to have a beautiful time this afternoon,” Blue Bonnet assured them. “Isn’t it the nicest storm?”

It beat against the windows in sudden fitful gusts, the air was full of the white, whirling flakes, and down in the garden were great, drifting heaps.

Susy looked at the white world without and then about the large, square room. “I always did want to belong to a club—and have a real clubroom,” she said contentedly.

It had been a nursery in former years, as the window bars and the bright colored prints on the walls still testified. Now the center table, the wide lounge, generously supplied with the biggest and softest of cushions, the quaint medley of chairs,235 big and little, the low hassocks at either end of the broad hearth, made it, in the eyes of club members, an ideal gathering-place. There was nothing breakable—in the ordinary sense—and there were no curtains at the four windows,—just shades that could be raised quite out of sight when necessary; and on club days, a bright fire burned in the deep fireplace, behind the tall wire screen.

“So you’ve got your work, Blue Bonnet!” Sarah said, taking up a skein of the purple wool. “Have you learnt the stitch?”

“I’m—learning it. Please—before you all begin, listen to this—” and she read them the letter received the night before.

“So that is what it was,” Sarah said. “How oddly she addressed it!”

“Do you suppose she would like to have the rest of us write to her?” Ruth asked.

“I’m sure of it!” Blue Bonnet cried, delightedly. “I mean to answer this right away—and I’m going to send her a Christmas box.”

“Oh,” Susy dropped the square of linen she was hemstitching, “let’s make it a ‘We are Seven’ box.”

“And all write a letter to put in it,” Amanda added.

“I do think you are the dearest girls!” Blue Bonnet exclaimed enthusiastically.

“Let’s plan now,” Ruth proposed.

236 “Not until Blue Bonnet gets at her work!” Sarah advised.

“Sarah’s working you a motto, Blue Bonnet,—” Kitty said, “‘How doth the little busy’—and so forth, and so forth.”

“Kitty!” Sarah protested, “You know I am doing nothing of the kind.”

“Well, you can—now I’ve put the idea into your head.”

“The way I learned it was like this—” Blue Bonnet produced her ball of pink worsted and crochet needle rather reluctantly—

“‘How doth the busy little bee,
Delight to bark and bite;
And gather honey all the day,
To eat it up at night.’”

Sarah looked pained, but Kitty dropped her lace work to run around and hug Blue Bonnet. “That’s the best version I’ve heard yet.”

“I don’t approve of parodies,” Sarah remarked. “Are you going to make a pink shawl, Blue Bonnet?”

“Grandmother thought I had better practice my stitch a little before starting regularly to work,” Blue Bonnet answered.

Kitty’s brows arched expressively. “And ‘Grandmother’ was quite right, my child! How did you get it shirred like that; is it a new stitch?”

237 “Why shouldn’t I shirr it, if I like it that way?” Blue Bonnet laid her work on the table, patting and pulling at it with impatient fingers.

“But you shouldn’t hold your finger out like that!” Sarah corrected presently. “You’ll get the habit.”

“No, I won’t!” Blue Bonnet declared; she looked from one busy worker to another. How nimble every pair of hands in the room, except hers, seemed.

“I—I hate crocheting!” she announced presently. “It makes me feel cross and as if I should go to pieces.”

“I like it,” Sarah looked down at the bed-shoe she was making. “Only I don’t get much time for it.”

Five minutes longer Blue Bonnet worked, then she pushed back her chair. “Fifteen minutes—and as many more as you like—for refreshments. Sarah, will you please cut the pies?”

And after refreshments, with the dusk coming on, and Blue Bonnet firmly refusing to have the lights lit, there was nothing for it but to gather about the fire and talk.

“Now this is what I call a sensible way of spending one’s time!” Blue Bonnet threw on another log. “Let’s talk Christmas—remember, if you please, that this is the first time I’ve had a lot of girls to talk it with.”

238 She went with them to the door, when at last she could neither coax nor cajole them into remaining any longer, and from there on down to the gate—first catching up Aunt Lucinda’s garden cape from its nail.

All but Kitty were going home to what Blue Bonnet mentally designated “families,” and Kitty lived next door to Amanda and was almost as much at home in the Parker house as in her own.

It seemed to Blue Bonnet, as she stood there in the fast-falling snow, watching the six walk briskly off down the darkening street, Kitty and Debby stopping now and again to exchange snowballs with a passing friend, that of all seasons of the year, Christmas was the very nicest in which to be part of a large family.

She was turning to go in when she caught the sound of Alec’s whistle, and waited to speak to him. “Do come in,” she urged, “I feel—just like Mrs. Gummidge. I want someone to talk to who is—young, and can’t do things with his hands.”

“Thanks—awfully,” Alec said.

“Not tiresome crocheting sort of things—nor hemstitching—nor knitting double stitch—nor—”

“You needn’t go on enumerating! I plead guilty to each separate charge. You come over instead—Grandfather’ll be no end delighted.”

239 “I’ll interview Grandmother,” Blue Bonnet started for the house. Halfway up the path, she turned and came back. “I can’t! I haven’t done my lessons for Monday. I kept thinking there was so much time—and I did mean to do some extra studying, too.”

“Can’t you—” Alec began.

Blue Bonnet put her fingers over her ears. “Run away! or I’ll come—and I mustn’t, truly.”

When Blue Bonnet came back to the sitting-room that evening, school-books strapped ready for carrying Monday morning, she found Miss Lucinda sorting embroidery silks at the table.

“Are you going to embroider something, Aunt Lucinda?” she asked. “Aren’t they pretty! Did you get them in Boston yesterday?”

“Which question shall I answer first?” Miss Lucinda asked, with the smile it was Blue Bonnet’s secret wonder she did not use oftener—it was so very becoming. “Some of them I had, some I got new. I am sending a little bundle of silks and one or two stamped patterns to each of the older girls in a home for cripples, in which I am interested.”

“You mean for Christmas?”


Blue Bonnet was immensely interested, offering to help sort and asking any number of questions about the girls. “Couldn’t I go with you some240 time, Aunt Lucinda?” she asked. “I’ve never been to a place of that kind—and mayn’t I send them something, too?”

“I should be very glad to have you, Blue Bonnet.”

“What lots of things there are to do—in the world; and such a little time for the Christmas things,” Blue Bonnet said, thoughtfully.

“There is always a year between one Christmas and the next,” her aunt answered.

“But not between now and this coming Christmas. And those hateful exams sticking themselves in between. It ought to be against the law—having examinations at holiday time.” Blue Bonnet rumpled up her hair impatiently.

Her grandmother looked amused. “The school laws, as revised by Miss Elizabeth Blue Bonnet Ashe, should prove interesting reading.”

“But if I don’t pass—it’ll just spoil being a ‘We are Seven’!” Blue Bonnet insisted.

“Then—screw not only your courage but your attention to the sticking point, and you’ll not fail,” Miss Lucinda counselled.

“I don’t see how Sarah gets time for everything the way she does,” Blue Bonnet sighed. “She never seems to hurry.”

“It is generally the busiest people who have most time,” Grandmother said, forestalling Miss Lucinda.

“Alec says there have to be some idlers in the241 world to keep things balanced. Alec does say such comforting things.”

“More comforting than bracing, I am afraid,” Miss Lucinda commented; “but in his case, there is some excuse, as he is really not strong.”

Blue Bonnet decided to go to bed. “We were getting on thin ice,” she confided to Solomon, who insisted on going upstairs for a final chat. “And it seemed a pity—after we’d been getting on so comfortably. Solomon, I’ve such an inspiration—got straight from Aunt Lucinda—I’ll send Benita the wool in the Christmas box—and let her make her own shawl!”

And when Kitty asked on Monday morning how the shawl was progressing, Blue Bonnet told her what she had told Solomon.

“So thoughtful of you, my dear!” Kitty observed. “But don’t forget to put in the sample too—as proof of how it ought not to be done.”

And for the rest of that recess there was a coolness between them.

For some reason—unexplained even to herself, Blue Bonnet had put off telling her grandmother of her change of plan. Perhaps Grandmother would speak of the shawl first. Grandmother did, that same evening.

“I—I’ve given up making it,” Blue Bonnet explained. “I—I don’t believe crocheting is my vocation.”

242 “And have you discovered just what your vocation is?” her aunt asked.

Blue Bonnet shook her head. “Unless, not having one.”

“It is something to have found out what it is not,” Grandmother said. “I have known people who had not attained even to that point.”

Blue Bonnet pinched one of Solomon’s long ears; they were behaving beautifully—Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda.

And then Grandmother said, slowly, “All the same, Blue Bonnet—though I agree with you that there would hardly be time, under present circumstances, for you to get the shawl done, I do not at all approve of your taking things up and then dropping them as suddenly.”

Blue Bonnet looked into the fire; she had been afraid Grandmother would take it like that. Then she looked up, with eyes full of sudden mischief. “Grandmother, dear, I give you my word of honor, that the next time I start in to make anyone a crocheted shawl I’ll finish it!”

And even Aunt Lucinda was obliged to smile.

Never days went by more quickly than those short December ones. And never, in Blue Bonnet’s experience, had days been half so full of business.

Two or three times a week came messages from Uncle Cliff, generally accompanied by packages for the box, or rather boxes. For Mr. Ashe had been243 promptly told of that second Christmas box, also destined for Texas, and had as promptly expressed his unqualified approval.

The two stood side by side on the table in the clubroom, and in one a big bundle of bright purple and crimson wools held no inconspicuous place.

There were shopping trips in town with Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda, and one made by the club in a body. Blue Bonnet declared she would never forget that shopping trip; Sarah inwardly registered the same vow, though from different reasons.

There were innumerable impromptu meetings of the club at the house of one or another.

There were the daily walks, which, now that the riding was over, Grandmother firmly insisted on.

And in between times were snatches of extra studying, hasty reviews.

“And you’ve gone through with it all every year for ages and ages!” Blue Bonnet said one morning, looking from Sarah to Kitty in positive admiration.

“Why don’t you put it centuries?” Kitty asked.

“Of course we have,” Sarah said, calmly. She expected to pass; she always had, though never brilliantly; and when she went to bed on Christmas Eve, though it might be late, it would be with the comfortable feeling that she had accomplished all she had set out to do.

244 “Alec’s cousin came last night!” Blue Bonnet announced with one of her sudden changes of subject.

“What’s he like?” Kitty asked.

“He isn’t like Alec. I daresay he’s—New Yorky. I don’t like him as well as I do Alec.”

“How can you tell so soon?” Sarah objected.

Blue Bonnet shrugged. “Oh, because—and anyhow, even if I did, I wouldn’t.”

“Would you mind saying that over again?” Sarah looked bewildered.

“News!” Debby joined them. “The pond’s frozen over! You skate, Blue Bonnet?”

“Alec’s going to teach me. I’ve got news, too—Grandmother’s going to give me a Christmas party!”

There was a little chorus of excited approval.

“Well, Honey!” It seemed to Uncle Cliff as if he had been gone three months rather than nearly three weeks. “Box all ready?”

“Except a few last things, which we’re going to get together.” Blue Bonnet nestled closely to him, under the big buffalo robe. “Maybe I haven’t done some tall rustling lately! I haven’t a reputation ’round these parts for getting there before the train starts, but I’ve done it this time! And just wait till you see what I’ve got for Uncle Joe! Aunt Lucinda suggested it—when it comes to245 Christmasing, Aunt Lucinda’s a jim-dandy. And if Carita Adeline Judson doesn’t open her eyes!”

“Call a halt, Honey!” Mr. Ashe implored, laughingly. “Looks like you were trying to keep time with those sleigh-bells!”

He was waiting for her when school closed the next afternoon, and together they caught the three-twenty for town. The boxes must go the next day without fail. They shopped until dinner time—Uncle Cliff’s vigorous methods making even Blue Bonnet feel rather dizzy—then dined in delightful holiday fashion at one of the big, gaily-lighted restaurants; where, what with the crowds, the music, and the excitement of it all, Blue Bonnet found it hard to eat anything.

Then back on the eight o’clock for the final fillings-in, at which not only the club en masse, but Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda were present.

At last the finishing spray of holly was laid on the top of each generously-stored box, the covers were nailed on by Mr. Ashe, the addresses marked.

Blue Bonnet drew a long breath—“We did get them done—in time!” She waltzed Debby up and down the room with its litter of paper and string, its ends of Christmas ribbons and soft-tinted cotton. “But this ‘we’ wouldn’t’ve, if it hadn’t’ve been for you all.”

“To-morrow they’ll be on their way, Solomon!”246 she assured him later; and later still, lying awake in her room, with the fire throwing flickering shadows over walls and ceiling, Blue Bonnet tried to picture to herself the unpacking of those boxes, in lonely ranch house, and, perhaps, almost as lonely parsonage.

Uncle Joe Terry’s delight when her laughing face looked up at him from its silver frame; and Carita’s joy on opening a certain envelope, in which was a printed certificate telling how for twelve long, happy months, that most welcome of all visitor, dear old Saint Nicholas, was to make his appearance at the Judson home.

“Aunt Lucinda suggested that, too,” Blue Bonnet said to herself, sleepily. Christmas was the dearest time in all the year,—she had always known that,—but this year she was finding out its wonderful possibilities more clearly every day.

Two or three days later those dreadful examinations began, and like a good many other things in this world, proved upon closer acquaintance not half so dreadful as they had seemed, viewed at long distance.

“I’m getting all the questions that I know,” Blue Bonnet rejoiced more than once; but for all her rejoicing, she walked softly those days.

“They’re over at last!” she told her uncle, coming home one afternoon.

“And now what next, Honey?”

247 “Sentence—and we won’t know until the last day of school!”

But when that all-important Friday arrived, Blue Bonnet came home jubilant.

“I’ve passed!” she announced to Solomon watching for her at the gate. Uncle Cliff was the next to hear the news; he was on the veranda—walking up and down and thinking the afternoon unusually long. Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda heard it next; then Blue Bonnet carried the glad tidings out to the kitchen.

“And now,” she came back to the veranda, “now I’m ready for a good time. And Monday’ll be Christmas! And to-morrow—which’ll be like Christmas Eve—we’re going into town! I say, Uncle Cliff, what larks!”



Aunt Lucinda was playing Christmas carols; it seemed to Blue Bonnet, listening in her big chair by one of the long windows, that the air had been full of carols all day. At church in the morning, at Sunday school in the afternoon; and later, as she and Grandmother made their rounds in the big, old-fashioned sleigh, carrying Christmas cheer to more than one home, the very bells had seemed to be singing a carol of their own.

The little bank had been emptied of its contents the morning before, considerably more coming out than Blue Bonnet herself had put in, though she had been faithful in those weekly contributions; and she and Uncle Cliff had spent a delightful hour in a little toyshop, rather off the main stream of traffic—chosen because it was little and looked sort of lonely and forlorn, whose proprietor had been most sincere in his urgent request that they should call again.

That long day in Boston,—with the blessed knowledge at the back of one’s mind that one had “passed,” and that school was done with for ten whole days; with the wind nipping one’s fingertips249 and reddening one’s cheeks; with the stores reminding one of the fairy-land, and the streets almost as gay and wonderful as the stores; with Uncle Cliff declaring that Christmas only came once a year, and that this was the first time they had ever had a chance to go shopping together properly,—had been a day not soon to be forgotten.

And then the making up of the baskets in the evening! Grandmother insisted that one sleigh would never carry them all.

“Every part of Christmas seems the nicest,” Blue Bonnet had sighed, happily, filling a bag with nuts and raisins for the small Pattersons, and almost envying Luella Patterson the brown-eyed, brown-haired doll lying smiling up at her from its box.

Nor had this “between-time” Sunday lacked its own particular charm. “It gives one a little chance to get one’s breath,” Blue Bonnet confided to Solomon, curled up in the chair beside her, “Though it hasn’t been what one would call precisely an idle day! But I’ve got everything ready—think of that, Solomon! All the home things packed away in the closet, and after supper, Uncle Cliff and I are going to take Alec’s and the ‘We are Seven’ theirs. Think what a lot of presents I’ve had to wrap up and write on!”

Solomon wriggled appreciatively; there was something for him,—he had been told so.

250 While out in the hall stood a big, travel-stained box, object of Solomon’s liveliest curiosity. It had arrived the day before from Texas.

“Don’t you want to come sing this, Blue Bonnet?” Aunt Lucinda asked; and as Blue Bonnet came to the piano, she struck the opening chords of Mrs. Clyde’s favorite carol: “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Blue Bonnet sang it all, looking out to where above the familiar street the silent stars went by, and trying to picture to herself the little hillside town of Bethlehem, resting in its quiet sleep.

“‘O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great, glad tidings tell
Oh, come to us, abide with us;
Our Lord Emmanuel!’”

The girl’s clear voice sounded softly through the quiet parlor, with its trimmings of evergreen and holly, carrying two of her listeners back to more than one Christmas Eve in the past.

All in all, Christmas Eve was almost as nice as Christmas itself, Blue Bonnet decided that night, sitting on the hearth-rug before the fire in her own room. Then her face grew suddenly wistful. It was not so many years ago that her mother had251 sat on this same hearth-rug, thinking of the joys to come on the morrow, while the clock on the mantel ticked away the moments bringing the great day of days nearer and nearer.

Solomon was the first to give her Christmas greeting the next morning, choosing Christmas for his first venture above stairs before breakfast; aided and abetted therein by Delia. Sure, and the child should have somebody to talk to on Christmas morning—and Solomon was wiser than a deal of humans.

He received warm welcome; Blue Bonnet was sitting up in bed, a little square, pasteboard box in her hand. “I found it under my pillow,” she told the ever-curious Solomon. “Now how did Grandmother smuggle it in without my knowing it?”

She slipped the slender gold band with its one deep, dark blue stone on her finger. “Isn’t it pretty, Solomon?”

And it was with the brightest of Christmas faces that Blue Bonnet came down to breakfast half an hour later. No one was in the dining-room, but the table stood ready, a true Christmas table, with its shining silver and bowl of crimson roses; its pile of presents at each place; overflowing, in Blue Bonnet’s case, from table to floor.

“Please!”—Blue Bonnet went to the door—“Won’t everybody hurry! I don’t think I can wait much longer!”

252 “So hungry as all that, Honey?” her uncle laughed, coming in from his morning constitutional on the veranda. “Merry Christmas!”

“You were in very good time this morning, my dear!” Miss Lucinda laughed, when the various Christmas greetings had been exchanged and they all sat down to breakfast.

“Wasn’t I?” Blue Bonnet’s fingers were busy with ribbon and paper. There were furs from Uncle Cliff, books, ribbons, and neckwear from Grandmother, skates and the prettiest fur skating-cap from Aunt Lucinda, books from the “Boston relatives,” remembrances from Alec and each of the girls, from Katie and Delia, a new collar for Solomon from Denham. There were any number of odd little trifles such as girls love, which Mr. Ashe had picked up for her in New York; there was a box of chocolates big enough to promise the entire club much enjoyment; and under her napkin—when at least she had calmed down enough to remember to unfold it, was a slip of paper which told that “Darrel’s mare” was Darrel’s no longer but belonged to the owner of the Blue Bonnet Ranch.

By that time, Blue Bonnet had quite given up trying to put her delight and gratitude into words, but her shining eyes said it very plainly to the three watching her.

“How did everybody know exactly what I253 wanted, when I hadn’t begun to think of half so many lovely things myself?” she said.

As for Blue Bonnet, she and Uncle Cliff had put their heads together to very good purpose. Grandmother, whose pet hobby was fine china, openly rejoiced over the delicate beauty of the tea-set filling the box at her place; while Aunt Lucinda—who was a true music lover—bent delightedly over the lives of her favorite musicians, in their soft, rich bindings.

For Uncle Cliff, Blue Bonnet had gone to Grandmother for advice; and the girl’s laughing, happy face looking out at him from the purple velvet miniature case pleased him as nothing else could have done.

“It won’t be quite like going back without you now, Honey,” he told her.

After breakfast, came the unpacking of the Texas box; a box with something in it for everyone; bright-colored Mexican serapes, some of Benita’s fine drawn work—at sight of which Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda exclaimed delightedly; there were jars of highly spiced Mexican conserves, which Blue Bonnet rejoiced over; a tin box of Lisa’s best pinochie; and down at the bottom were eight wonderfully fringed and trimmed Mexican saddle blankets—one for each of the “We are Seven’s” and Alec, and there was even a cleverly-wrought leather leash for Solomon.

254 “Isn’t it the nicest Christmas!” Blue Bonnet cried, her lap full of treasures. “There’s Alec! I’ll give him his blanket right away! I reckon he’s come to take me skating—I sha’n’t have to borrow skates now.”

“But dear,” Mrs. Clyde laid a detaining hand on her arm, “there will not be time for skating before church.”

“Are we going to church—on Christmas?” Blue Bonnet looked rather blank.

“Isn’t that the time of all others to go, dear; to return thanks for the greatest Gift of all—on His own day?”

Blue Bonnet’s eyes deepened. “I’ll be ready on time,” she promised, and ran to welcome Alec.

“Oh, I say!” he cried, as she gave him his saddle blanket, “how uncommonly jolly in them to remember me! And I’ve come to say thank you for something else, too.”

“Alec, are you going to church?” Blue Bonnet asked, as they went out to the dining-room to examine the skates and other presents.

He nodded. “But we can go skating after dinner—the pond’s in fine condition. Boyd’s coming too—between us we’ll get you taught in no time.”

It was a typical New England winter’s day, all white and blue; even in the sun, it was necessary to move pretty briskly if one wanted to keep warm.


The broad village street was alive with people;255 the bells were ringing for the Christmas service; on every side one had cheery Christmas greetings. Blue Bonnet, a knot of holly pinned to her dark furs, looked up at her uncle with eager face. “Isn’t it all like being part of a Christmas card scene—the crystallized kind?”

“So it is,” he agreed.

“After Texas, I believe I love Massachusetts,” Blue Bonnet decided. “There go Ruth and Susy—it must be nice having a sister almost one’s own age on Christmas. Oh, me, I can’t help hoping Mr. Blake won’t preach very long.”

But Mr. Blake was under the spell of the day, quite like other people. It was hardly a sermon at all he gave them, just a simple Christmas talk starting with the message of peace and good-will brought down by the angels at that first far-off Christmas-tide.

Blue Bonnet listening to it, her eyes turning, as they always did in church, to the memorial window beyond, with the winter sunshine shining through its rich coloring, wondered if her mother and father knew how very happy she was to-day? Knew, too, of the new thoughts and resolves stirring within her. Every Christmas all her life should find someone the richer, happier, for her being here in this world—that, at least, she was determined on; not just the home people and friends.

And after church, surrounded by the other six256 club members, each insisting that she come with them and see their things, Blue Bonnet could hardly keep from dancing from very happiness.

They compromised at last; the seven would adjourn to the parsonage, that being the nearest point; after dinner they would all meet at the pond, and from the pond they would go to Blue Bonnet’s.

“Think of it!” Blue Bonnet exclaimed. “The mare’s my very own! I’m going to name her Chula! I thought of it in—church!”

“What else have you been thinking about—in church?” Kitty demanded.

“Oh, any amount of things—Christmas things! Wasn’t it dear of Uncle Cliff?”

“You shouldn’t have him all the time for an uncle,” Debby protested. “It isn’t a fair division.”

The sitting-room at the parsonage told plainly what day of the year it was. Five small Blakes, ranging from twelve to three, swooped joyously down upon the newcomers.

“What did you get?” resounded on every side, broken by excited exclamations of admiration and sympathy.

“I am glad Aunt Lucinda thought of my skates!” Blue Bonnet rejoiced. “We’ll go every afternoon, won’t we?—while the ice holds.”

“I’ll have to go now—not skating,” Debby said, and at that the party broke up.

There was to be only a home dinner that day,257 at the usual time, in order to give Delia and Katie their Christmas holiday; so Blue Bonnet was waiting when the boys came for her.

Boyd Trent, though several months younger than his cousin, was taller and stronger looking in every way than Alec. Blue Bonnet wondered, as the three went down the path and out at the back gate, why she felt so sure that she should never really like him.

He certainly gave her no cause for complaint that afternoon; between him and Alec, she got on very well.

“You’ll get there,” Boyd assured her. “Let go, Alec—she mustn’t have too much help.”

“Like it?” Kitty asked, coming up.

“I love it!” Blue Bonnet declared.

“How many tumbles so far?”

“Did you think we would let her fall?” Boyd asked.

“She doesn’t always wait to be let—before doing things,” Kitty answered, “particularly, in school.”

“But you see we prevented any desire,” Alec explained.

“Let’s see you try it alone?” Kitty urged, and Blue Bonnet took a few not too unsteady steps.

The wide pond was crowded with skaters; they made a pretty sight, darting about, the girls in their bright coats and caps, the boys in bright sweaters.

258 Not until the west was all aglow and the wind sweeping down from the hills too keen and nipping, did the “We are Seven’s” and their especial friends turn their faces homewards.

At the Clyde gate the club members turned in, slipping in at the side door and straight on up to Blue Bonnet’s room. She had spread most of her gifts out on her bed, trying to realize them that way.

“But I can’t—yet,” she said now. “I wonder if anyone ever felt as rich as I do.”

“Not everyone has such cause,” Debby answered. All of the others had fared well; but, as Kitty put it, it almost seemed as if Blue Bonnet had fared too well for her own good. “You haven’t anything left to want for,” she insisted.

“I don’t want Uncle Cliff to go West.”

“Nor do we,” Ruth laughed.

“Let’s talk about the party,” Amanda suggested; for Blue Bonnet’s party was to be on Thursday night. “Who’s coming, Blue Bonnet?”

“You all:—”

“I should rather think so,” Kitty remarked.

“And Alec and his cousin, and a lot of the other boys and girls. Some of them I don’t know very well.”

“It’ll be a real big party, won’t it?” Susy rejoiced. “Mother says that when she was a girl she liked the parties here better than any she259 went to. She has one of her old party dresses still.”

“I wonder,” Amanda said, as the six were on their way home, “what Blue Bonnet’s going to wear Thursday night?”

“It won’t be anything fussy,” Debby remarked. “Miss Clyde doesn’t approve of fussy things for girls.”

“She is quite right,” Sarah said; “young people shouldn’t—”

“Couldn’t you let it go at that, please!” Kitty interposed.

“Kitty! Besides, you don’t know what I was going to say!”

“Oh, yes, we do, Sallykins!” It was the final straw, and Kitty knew it, calling Sarah Sallykins.

“If I were Blue Bonnet,” Debby interposed, “I’d have all the pretty clothes I wanted.”

“I daresay she has,” Ruth laughed; “she has all she needs, at any rate—and they’re always pretty.”

“Then, Debby,” Amanda objected, “you wouldn’t be Blue Bonnet! One of the nicest things about Blue Bonnet Ashe is the way she never seems to realize how much she could have, nor to want it.”

Debby still looked unconvinced; but then Debby was the youngest of several sisters, and her mother had a talent for “making over.”

260 “Please, Grandmother!” Blue Bonnet came to a standstill in the center of her grandmother’s room, “Aunt Lucinda said for me to come show myself. Do I look—partified?”

Mrs. Clyde turned from her dressing-table to glance with pleased eyes at the speaker. Blue Bonnet was all in white from head to foot, save for the spray of crimson holly berries in her brown hair. “You look,” Grandmother said slowly, “very happy; and you are dressed as I like to see a school girl dressed—simply and becomingly.”

Blue Bonnet swung her fan by its slender chain,—they had been Alec’s Christmas present; “Aunt Lucinda wasn’t taking any chances to-night; she didn’t send Delia.”

Grandmother smiled. “This party is in honor of ‘Miss Elizabeth Blue Bonnet Ashe,’ not ‘Señorita.’”

“And I’m on time! Grandmother, you look lovely!” Blue Bonnet’s eyes sparkled. “Just as I like to see—a grandmother dressed.”

“And now, having exchanged compliments, shall we go down?” Mrs. Clyde asked.

In the hall below, they found Mr. Ashe waiting.

“Well! well!” he said, as Blue Bonnet swept him a courtesy, “I wish Uncle Joe and the folks back there could see you, Honey!”

“Come and have a turn before anyone gets261 here!” Blue Bonnet begged, as from the back parlor came the strains of old “Uncle Tim’s” fiddle. “Uncle Tim” and his grandson “Young Tim” were Woodford’s standbys in affairs of this sort. No one could play dance music like old black Tim, though his grandson bade fair to follow in his steps. The old man’s kindly wrinkled face beamed now at sight of Blue Bonnet—“Want ter dance a bit ’fore de folkses gits yere? All right—yo’ shore looks like yo’ all ready for de dancin’.”

The two long parlors thrown into one and cleared for dancing made an admirable ballroom; at one end, potted palms fenced off the corner reserved for the elders.

“Isn’t it all too delightful!” Blue Bonnet said, as she and her uncle waltzed gaily down the length. “Please, Uncle Cliff,” she gave him her programme, “put your name down for just as many as you want—before anyone else gets here.”

“I’m not out looking for trouble, Honey!” Mr. Ashe laughed. “You play with the young folks to-night—why, that was one of the things you came East for!”

“I came East because—you know now why I wanted to come,—and what made me so horrid all that time.”

“If you’re going to call my ward names, I’ll quit dancing with you,” Mr. Ashe insisted.

“There’s Kitty!” Blue Bonnet exclaimed.

262 Kitty had come luggage laden; she was to stay over night, Mrs. Clyde having declared that one of the pleasantest things about a party was the talking it over in bed afterwards.

“How nice you look!” Blue Bonnet said warmly: “Come on upstairs—and, oh, Kitty! You must see my flowers! Ever and ever so many sent me flowers!”

“Naturally,” Kitty observed; “didn’t you expect they would? Whose are those?” she touched the white carnations in Blue Bonnet’s girdle.

“Uncle Cliff’s, I couldn’t wear them all—and I thought he’d like it if I chose his—he’s going away so soon now, too.”

Kitty gave her hair a few touches here and there. “I’m ready now!”

There was nothing formal about Blue Bonnet’s manner of receiving her guests; she was glad to see them, and she said so. Her own enjoyment was evident; loving dancing herself, she was quite sure everyone else must be equally fond of it, and she was determined that there should be no wall-flowers at her party. Uncle Cliff was an invaluable ally, dancing with whomever she bade him.

“This is better than tea-parties?” Alec asked, when his turn with her came.

“Yes, indeed.”

“So I think; I wasn’t at that tea-party, you may remember?”

263 “I remember you very nearly prevented my being at it.”

“Is that the reason you’re turning me down now?”

“I’m not. The next three are duty dances—with boys I don’t know very well.”

“Thanks—for not including this among them.”

Blue Bonnet turned to her next partner, a tall boy—one of the coming graduates; she hoped he wasn’t as serious as he looked.

It was a pretty sight; the long rooms, still wearing their Christmas trimmings of evergreen and holly, filled with light-hearted, bright-faced young people, keeping time to the strains of the waltz “Uncle Tim” was playing. To the elders, looking on from their sheltered corner, it was like a return to old times.

“Isn’t it lovely?” Amanda said, as she and Debby met for a moment between dances. Amanda felt that Susy’s mother was right—she had never been to a nicer dance.

“There’s Blue Bonnet with Alec’s cousin. Do you like him?” Debby asked.

Amanda hesitated. “He’s—very polite.”

“Sarah’s looking real pretty, isn’t she?” Debby said; it was Debby’s private opinion that all the club members had done themselves proud this evening. She gave her soft pink skirts a smoothing264 touch; pink was Debby’s color, and this was a perfectly new dress.

“She certainly is,” Amanda agreed; “and she looks as though she were having a good time, too. Mostly, one can never be quite sure whether Sarah Blake is really having a good time, or just being polite.”

Then Blue Bonnet bore down upon them. “What are you two doing off here? You are neither ‘elders’ nor chaperons!”

“Comparing notes,” Debby answered.

“Oh, we’re having the best time ever!” Amanda cried enthusiastically. Blue Bonnet Ashe wasn’t the sort of girl who never cared whether anyone else had a good time or not, so long as she had one herself; Amanda knew girls like that.

“Aunt Lucinda says we’re to form for the supper march soon,” Blue Bonnet said; “I’ve never been to this kind of a party before—but then I reckon I’ve never been to a really truly party before—but I’m trying my hardest to be a credit to the family. Please say I’ve succeeded so far!” she begged, laughingly.

“You have—so far as I’ve seen,” Debby teased.

“Oh, there’s the General!” Blue Bonnet exclaimed. “He promised to look in during the evening. I wish I might go out to supper with him, or Alec, or Uncle Cliff—someone I really know—instead265 of that big boy from the first grade. Imagine! He started talking ‘Sargent,’ before we’d been dancing five seconds!”

“I think, Blue Bonnet,” Sarah said, coming up, “that Miss Clyde is looking for you.”

“So do I.” Blue Bonnet gave Sarah’s knot of blue ribbons a little pat. “Are you having a good time, Sarah mia?”

“Very! So good that I am almost afraid it will be rather difficult to go back to one’s regular way of living to-morrow.”

“Then don’t think of it now!” Blue Bonnet advised.

The line was forming for the march out to supper; once in the dining-room, it broke up into little groups, four to a table.

And then, from every side came eager exclamations of surprise and pleasure; for in the center of each table was a little candle-lighted Christmas tree, from the base of which ran four crimson ribbons, to which were attached the place cards, with their borders of Christmas elves bearing dainty sprays of holly and mistletoe; while among the decorations on the trees were tiny favors, both pretty and amusing.

It was all as much a surprise to Blue Bonnet as to her guests; she had known that Miss Lucinda was giving considerable thought to the details of her party, but she had never dreamed of anything266 like this. Blue Bonnet told herself, that she never, never would be vexed or impatient with Aunt Lucinda again—let her seem ever so exacting.

If it would only go on and on indefinitely! “Why must all the nicest things come to an end so soon?” Blue Bonnet asked her partner abruptly.

He looked down at her in surprise—for not the first time that evening. “Doesn’t everything come to an end sooner or later?”

“That’s just what I’m complaining of! There ought to be more than sixty minutes to an hour—at times like these.”

“But, Miss Blue Bonnet, think what confusion—”

“You know—” Blue Bonnet’s eyes were most demure, “we really manage little things like that much better out in Texas.”

“And I verily believe he thought I was in earnest,” she confided to Ruth later. “Now why didn’t Aunt Lucinda send him out with Sarah?”

“Perhaps she has an eye for contrasts,” Ruth suggested. “Well, I suppose it’s all over—I’m mighty sorry!”

“So am I,” Blue Bonnet said.

And after she had said good-night to the last departing guest, and had seen Kitty on her way upstairs, promising to come too, directly, Blue Bonnet came back to where her aunt and grandmother were talking together. “You’ve given the nicest,267 prettiest party that ever could be!” she said gratefully, slipping a hand into both Grandmother’s and Aunt Lucinda’s; “and I just can’t thank you enough—but I’ll never, never forget it.”

“I think we may call it a perfect success from start to finish,” Miss Lucinda said.



Monday morning, Mr. Ashe left for the West; and the next day, the new term began.

“It’ll seem odd, not going to Miss Rankin’s room,” Blue Bonnet said, overtaking Debby on the way to school. “I wonder if she’ll miss us.”

“Some of us,” Debby suggested.

“Alec says, Miss Fellows is ever so jolly.”

“She hasn’t been at it so long,” Debby commented. “Are you taking French, Blue Bonnet?”

Blue Bonnet nodded. “It has to be that, or German, hasn’t it? Aunt Lucinda thought I’d better choose French this year. I’ve studied it some; one of the tutors instituted an hour’s conversation every day, just after dinner; there used to be—interruptions.”

Blue Bonnet came home that afternoon most enthusiastic; Miss Fellows was all she ought to be, she shouldn’t have a bit of trouble with her.

“And does the lady in question feel confident regarding you?” Mrs. Clyde asked.

Blue Bonnet laughed. “She hasn’t said—yet. It’s ever so big a class, Grandmother; there were a lot of left-overs. French is three times a week—Mondays,269 Wednesdays, and Fridays—Mademoiselle looks awfully nice! Sarah and Amanda are taking German—isn’t it just like Sarah to choose the hardest? All the rest of us club members are taking French—Kitty says she wants to learn how to take ‘French leave’ and, oh, me, I promised not to be five minutes—they’re all waiting down at the back gate for me.”

Blue Bonnet dropped her strap of books, ran for her skates, paid a visit to the cookie jar in the pantry, patted Solomon, and with a “Good-bye, Grandmother,” was off, leaving Mrs. Clyde feeling as if a small whirlwind had swept through the quiet house.

What with school, her afternoons on the pond, her evenings of study, broken by occasional neighborhood gatherings, Blue Bonnet found the time slipping by very fast. While she missed her uncle greatly, she was learning more and more how much can be done by letter-writing, and those were far from doleful letters that traveled every week from Woodford to the far-away Texas ranch.

The weather held wonderfully; never had the pond been in better condition than during those January days.

“But the thaw’s bound to come before long,” Debby predicted one afternoon.

“The snow’s coming first!” Susy pointed to the270 clouds banking themselves up above the low line of hills—“Coming before to-morrow morning, too.”

“Let’s not go in just yet!” Blue Bonnet pleaded, as Susy bent to unfasten her straps.

“But it’s time!”

“You’re such a prompt-to-the-minute girl, Susy Doyle!” Blue Bonnet objected. “I’m not ready to go—are you, Kitty?”

“You never are ready,” Debby protested. They four were the only club members out that afternoon; as Debby insisted later, if only Sarah had been there it would never have happened.

“I’d like to start right off now and skate and skate without stopping, until I got to the end of the pond!” Blue Bonnet declared.

“But no one ever does skate up at the upper end of the pond,” Susy explained; “the ice is always rough up there; besides, it isn’t safe in ever so many spots.”

“Anyhow, I’d like to try it.” Blue Bonnet was in the mood for adventure; wasn’t it Friday afternoon? “I mean to ask Alec to go with me.”

“He’s playing hockey!” Kitty said, looking at a group of boys down beyond. “He wouldn’t take you if he wasn’t—nor let you go,” she added mischievously.

“I don’t see how he could very well help that,” Blue Bonnet retorted. “I believe I’ll try it alone.”

271 “Blue Bonnet!” Susy gasped.

“I’d like awfully well to see you!” Kitty teased, in what Amanda called her “aggravating tone.”

“Is that a dare?” Blue Bonnet demanded.

“If you like to call it one.”

Blue Bonnet bent to tighten her skates.

“Blue Bonnet Ashe!” Debby exclaimed. “Are you clean daft! Start up there at this time of the evening—when you ought to be going home?”

“You don’t know how far it is,” Susy urged.

“No—but I’m going to find out,” Blue Bonnet said.

“Don’t worry, Susy,” Kitty remarked; “she won’t go very far.”

Blue Bonnet’s eyes flashed. “I’ll go as far as you will, Kitty Clark!”

“‘Is that a dare?’” Kitty quoted; she, too, bent to tighten her skates. “Come on!” she said; and before Debby or Susy realized it the two were off.

“Of all the—” Debby took a few steps, then came back to where Susy still stood, her skates in her hand. “Kitty, or Blue Bonnet, alone, one might manage to do something with—but together! Come on, Susy—it’s no use our standing here in the cold; perhaps they’ll turn around presently. Kitty knows she’s no right letting Blue Bonnet go up there after dark.”

“Shall we go tell some of the boys?” Susy asked.

272 But the boys were far down at the other end by now, fighting an exciting game to a finish. The pond had been thinning rapidly the last half hour, for, with the coming of night, a cold wind had sprung up.

Debby shivered. “It wouldn’t be much use; by the time we got them those two foolish girls would be out of call. It’s all that Kitty’s fault! She just dared Blue Bonnet on.”

At first, Blue Bonnet thoroughly enjoyed that swift rush along through the gathering dusk; they had the wind at their back, and ahead of them the pond to themselves. Then the two hours or more already spent in skating that afternoon began to tell on her, and with the sense of fast-growing fatigue came equally rapid misgivings. She glanced sideways at her companion; why wouldn’t Kitty speak! If only she would admit the foolishness of the undertaking, Blue Bonnet would give in too, but until Kitty gave in—she would not.

Kitty was thinking the same; she knew, as Blue Bonnet did not, not only the foolishness, but the risk of what they had undertaken. What had possessed her to start such a ball rolling? Once started, it went without saying that she could not be the first to throw up the game. Blue Bonnet was getting tired already, one could see that, though she was trying not to show it; and then—

But Kitty reckoned without knowledge.

273 The pond was growing narrower now, with sharp twists and turns that made Blue Bonnet think of the brook she and Alec had followed that August afternoon. The thought of the brook reminded her of Aunt Lucinda.

For just a moment, Blue Bonnet wavered; Aunt Lucinda had gone into town and would not be back until the nine o’clock train—Grandmother was alone, and would be worried.

Kitty saw the sudden slackening on Blue Bonnet’s part, and took comfort from it. “Ready to go back?” she asked, more than a hint of “I told you how it would be” in her voice.

Blue Bonnet wavered no longer; it was impossible to give in to Kitty—of all people; Kitty had started it, and it was her place to make the first move towards turning back.

“I am ready whenever you are,” she answered; “you have only to say the word.”

“I thought you wanted to go to the very end?”

Blue Bonnet made no answer. Kitty was the—Sarah would never be so horrid; and then the mere thought of Sarah in connection with such a foolish performance as this, made Blue Bonnet laugh.

So the two pushed doggedly on through the fast-deepening dusk, stumbling more than once against snags; tired, cold, hungry, and miserable, and with the discouraging knowledge that every moment was taking them further from home.

274 It seemed to Blue Bonnet as if the pond had no end, but was like some dreary, enchanted lake in the fairy stories; that she and Kitty, like the brook, must go on and on forever. It did not seem possible that it could be the same pond she and the others had skated on so gaily that afternoon—if it really was that afternoon.

It was quite dark by now. Far away, across the fields, a solitary light showed in some lonely farmhouse window, and now and then they caught the sound of a dog barking.

It wouldn’t have been so unbearable, Blue Bonnet thought, if only Kitty would speak.

And then Kitty did speak—“We shall have to keep close to the bank from now on—the ice isn’t safe further out—that is, unless you want to go back?” No one should say that she had not given Blue Bonnet every opportunity to behave like a reasonable being.

“Do you?” Blue Bonnet asked.

In her heart, Kitty knew herself more than ready, but the little demon that had seemed hovering near her all the afternoon, prompted her to say, “We haven’t got to the end yet. I thought—”

On they went again, both too tired to skate at all fast. Kitty told herself that she would never dare anyone like Blue Bonnet Ashe again; it had proved a veritable boomerang of a dare. Blue Bonnet felt that once she had got her skates off, she275 should never want to see them again. While the realization that ahead of them both waited a probable very bad quarter of an hour, did not serve to make things any brighter.

And then a little group of bare trees loomed tall and shadowy almost in front of them, and, a moment later, the end of the pond was reached.

“I know now,” Blue Bonnet dropped wearily down on the snowy bank, “how Miss Rankin’s beloved Pilgrim Fathers felt when they landed on Plymouth Rock!”

“You mustn’t do that!” Kitty commanded. “Get up this moment.”

“I simply can’t—just yet. Only I don’t suppose our motive and theirs for setting out were precisely similar, do you, Kitty?”

“I’m not supposing anything about it! Will you get up? Or do you want to catch the worst cold you’ve ever had—and have everyone saying it was my fault?”

“I don’t see how they could say that,” Blue Bonnet got up reluctantly. “I suppose our next move—is to go back.”

“We can’t go back on the ice—it’s too dark and the wind would be dead against us all the way.”

Blue Bonnet began working at her skates. “I’m mighty glad of that!”

“Going ’cross lots through the snow won’t be exactly what you might call fun,” Kitty remarked.276 “Come on—I don’t know what time we’ll get home, as it is.”

“Let’s not have ‘Quaker meeting’ going home, Kitty,” Blue Bonnet begged.

“It won’t be ‘Quaker meeting’—once we do get home, I’m thinking,” Kitty answered; “and I just know mamma will be worried to death.”

“Kitty, why did we do it?” Blue Bonnet asked.

“Maybe we’d better not go into that at present,” Kitty suggested. “There—it’s beginning to snow!”

It certainly was, in a thorough-going, determined fashion that promised to last through the night, at the least.

Walking ’cross lots after dark through ankle-deep snow, with the storm beating in one’s face, was not a particularly pleasant way of passing the time, Blue Bonnet decided. “Kitty Clark!” she burst out. “If ever you dare dare me again!”

Kitty laughed. “You didn’t have to take it!”

“You knew I would!”

Kitty pulled off her mittens, blowing on her numbed fingers. “Well, I got paid in kind, didn’t I? Blue Bonnet, you mustn’t!” For Blue Bonnet had slipped her muff off, throwing the chain over Kitty’s head.

“Turn and turn about!” she insisted.

“Are you—too utterly fagged out?” Kitty277 asked presently, real concern in her voice, as Blue Bonnet stumbled, just saving herself from falling.

“I’m—a bit tired,” Blue Bonnet confessed. “I suppose it’s because I’m not so used to this sort of thing!” She wondered if Kitty really did know her way through the dark and storm; to all outward seeming, they were struggling aimlessly on across fields that had apparently no boundaries. They had left the friendly little light behind long since; it seemed as if she and Kitty were quite alone in a world of wind and snow.

All at once, she came to an abrupt stop. “Kitty, I’ve got to rest!” She dropped down on the snow in a forlorn little heap.

Kitty longed to follow suit; instead, she gave Blue Bonnet a little shake. “Blue Bonnet, get up immediately! We’re nearly to the road now; it won’t be half as hard walking then.”

“I don’t think I care very much whether we are near the road or not,” Blue Bonnet said wearily; “all I want is to sit still for a while.”

“Blue Bonnet, please! Haven’t you and I both had enough of doing what we want for one day?”

“I’ve had more than enough,” Blue Bonnet conceded readily, but she did not get up.

Kitty gave her a second shake, and a harder one. “Blue Bonnet! I got you into this, and I’ve got to get you out of it! Get up this moment!278 Think how worried they must be at home about us!”

“Grandmother will be worried,” Blue Bonnet agreed. “Aunt Lucinda isn’t at home; but I don’t seem to mind about that, either, now—I’m so tired.”

“Then I’ll sit down too!” Kitty dropped down beside Blue Bonnet. “I might as well sit as stand.”

Blue Bonnet roused herself impatiently. “What a provoking girl you are! Come on, then! Only you might let me rest.”

Kitty drew a deep sigh of thankfulness when, a few yards further on, they stumbled against the last fence, over which the snow was drifting fast. “It won’t be nearly so hard now,” she repeated, as they managed to scramble over it into the road.

A moment or so later, Kitty cried eagerly—“Blue Bonnet, listen!”

From down the road came the jingling of bells, coming nearer every moment; then a voice called, “Halloa! Halloa, there! Anyone about?”

“It’s Jim Parker!” Kitty cried joyously. “Here we are!” she called back.

“Well of all the tom-fool scrapes!” Jim drew his horse up with a jerk. “What do you mean by this, Kitty Clark! Setting the whole place by the ears!”

“It was just as much my fault!” Blue Bonnet protested.

279 “Well, we won’t stand here scrapping about that!” Jim bundled the two into the bottom of the box sleigh most unceremoniously, piling buffalo robes thick about them. “There’s blame enough to go shares on and have some left over.”

“Please don’t scold!” Kitty pleaded. “We’re dreadfully sorry, and if you knew how tired and hungry we were!”

Jim took up the reins—“And so you ought to be!” He was a big, hearty fellow of twenty, who had been pulling Kitty out of scrapes ever since she had been big enough to get into them,—and Kitty had begun early.

“How did you know where we were,—did Debby tell?” Kitty asked. Blue Bonnet cared neither to ask, nor answer questions.

“Why,” Jim explained, “when you didn’t come home your mother sent over to our place, thinking you must be there. Amanda hadn’t seen you since school; then Mrs. Clyde sent her Delia down to your place, in search of Blue Bonnet. Debby’d gone out to supper with Susy, and by the time we’d got ’round to the Doyles and found out where you had started for, it was getting pretty late, and some of the seniors were more or less anxious. Your father hadn’t got in yet. Some of the boys started up the pond with lanterns, and I came this way, thinking it barely possible you might have developed enough sense not to try to come back on the ice.”

280 “Is everyone dreadfully worried?” Kitty asked.

“Worried enough! That end of the pond isn’t the safest place, particularly after dark.”

Kitty subsided. When Jim, who was her staunch ally, used that tone towards her, matters must be pretty serious.

Never had the lights of the village, blinking at them through the snow, seemed more friendly or more welcome to the two nestled under the buffalo robes in the bottom of the Parker box sleigh.

Jim was blowing the horn he had brought, three good blasts.

“That means we’re found!” Kitty’s voice was trembling; some realization of what those blasts meant to those here at home had come to her.

Blue Bonnet roused herself. “Kitty, didn’t it almost seem—out there—in the snow—”

“Don’t!” Kitty dropped her face on Blue Bonnet’s shoulder.

It was not at all the sort of welcome they should have received, Dr. Clark declared afterwards; but then, as Kitty pointed out, he was the first to reach the sleigh—having heard the news on his way home—taking her into his own cutter, and on home to an exceedingly anxious mother, while Jim turned into the Clyde drive.

There Solomon met them, scrambling into the sleigh, and diving in among the robes, licking his mistress’ face, her ears—only stopping, momentarily,281 to bark in most ungrateful manner at Jim in his great fur coat.

“Here we are! All safe and sound!” Jim said, cheerily, as Mrs. Clyde came forward from the open doorway, just within which, Delia and Katie hovered excitedly. It was Delia’s and Katie’s firm conviction that “that Kitty” was to blame for the whole affair, it being “just like her.”

The next thing Blue Bonnet knew, Jim was carrying her indoors, robes and all, depositing her in the big armchair Grandmother drew forward. “There!” he said. “You’re home now and it’s up to someone to keep you here for one while!”

Blue Bonnet tried to say thank you, but made rather a failure of it; it was all she could do just then to fight back a sudden desire to cry. It was so good to be at home again—where it was warm and light and there were people about.

Grandmother seemed to understand, for she asked no questions; and before many minutes Blue Bonnet found herself in bed, with hot water bottles everywhere.

And then, quite unexpectedly, the doctor appeared; explaining that he thought he would look in and see how this second member of the exploring party was getting on.

“I’m all right!” Blue Bonnet told him, as he took her hand in his. “Please, Dr. Clark, it was my fault—not Kitty’s!”

282 “Time enough to-morrow to discuss that side of the question,” the doctor said. “What you’ve got to do now is to get in all the sleep you can.”

Blue Bonnet looked up at him with troubled eyes. “But every time I shut my eyes, I keep seeing—” she broke, abruptly.

“We’ll soon remedy that!” the doctor answered, taking out his medicine case.

“You are all so good to me!” Blue Bonnet told Grandmother, when the doctor had gone. “And you shouldn’t be, because—”

“We won’t go into that ‘because’ to-night, dear,” Mrs. Clyde bent to kiss the flushed face. “You must go to sleep now, as the doctor said.”

It was still snowing when Blue Bonnet woke the next morning. Down below, the hall clock was striking nine. It was a good thing that it was Saturday, Blue Bonnet thought; she felt stiff and tired. She wondered if Aunt Lucinda had been kept in town by the storm. Aunt Lucinda would have the right to be vexed with her this time; Blue Bonnet moved restlessly—she didn’t want to think about last night. Why, someone must have slept over there on her lounge! Surely, Grandmother hadn’t—Aunt Lucinda was coming upstairs now.

“Have you been awake long, Blue Bonnet?” Miss Lucinda asked. She sat down on the side of the bed, laying a hand over the one Blue Bonnet283 held out to her; she looked grave, but not at all—lectury, Blue Bonnet decided.

“I only just woke up, I’ll get right up,” the girl said.

Miss Lucinda shook her head. “Breakfast first, and then—if the doctor says you may—we’ll talk about the getting up.”

“But I don’t need the doctor!” Blue Bonnet protested.

She had little appetite for the daintily prepared breakfast Miss Lucinda brought her presently. “I ought not to have these dishes this morning,” she insisted, touching the pretty sprigged cup and saucer,—“I ought not to have anything nice.”

Miss Lucinda smiled. “Dr. Clark has been known to give very unpleasant doses; it is possible that he may give you something very far from nice.”

“I hope he says I may get up,” Blue Bonnet said. “I hate lying in bed.”

“Then it should prove excellent discipline,” Miss Lucinda suggested, shaking out her pillow and making her comfortable in a way Blue Bonnet found very pleasant.

“Did you sleep in here on the lounge last night, Aunt Lucinda?” she asked.

“Yes,” Miss Lucinda answered; she was putting the room to rights now. Blue Bonnet watched her interestedly. “How easily you do things—so284 quickly and without a bit of fuss,” she said. “There comes the doctor—I know he’ll say I’m foolish—lying here.”

What the doctor said, among other things, was that, in his opinion, Woodford had the unenviable distinction at that moment of containing two as headstrong and foolish young persons as it had ever been his lot to run across. And he ended by prescribing a day’s quiet in bed for Blue Bonnet; after which, he and Aunt Lucinda went downstairs together.

“A little cold, a good deal of fatigue, and considerable nervous excitement,” the doctor told Mrs. Clyde and Miss Lucinda. “She isn’t as rugged as some of our Woodford girls,” he added, “and this is her first New England winter. Quiet and coddling will bring her around all right.”

“And Kitty?” Mrs. Clyde inquired.

“Tired, and I trust—penitent,” Kitty’s father answered.

Blue Bonnet slept most of the day, Solomon mounting guard on the rug beside her bed. According to calculation, it should have been Saturday, but never had Solomon known his mistress to spend Saturday in such peculiar fashion before.

When Blue Bonnet finally awoke, towards late afternoon, feeling wonderfully rested, she found Grandmother sitting before the fire, her sewing lying idly in her lap. She looked tired and troubled,285 Blue Bonnet told herself, and it was all her fault.

“Grandmother,”—Blue Bonnet sat up in bed, shaking her hair back from her face—“please, I am ever and ever so sorry! About last night—it was just a foolish dare that I took up—and was too obstinate to let drop. I don’t believe, in the beginning, Kitty really meant it for a dare; she was only teasing. And I might have gone, even if she hadn’t gone too, but she wouldn’t have gone without me. So it was a good deal more my fault than hers. Once we’d got started, neither of us would give in. And then—afterwards, all the way home through the dark—I kept thinking of what happened last summer—out on the ranch; and seeing it all over again; and remembering what Uncle Joe said—how it need never have happened, if the poor, foolish fellow had had the grit enough not to take a dare. You see, one of the other cowboys dared him to ride that horse, and he would do it—though Uncle Joe warned him not to.”

“It should not have taken much ‘grit’ not to take Kitty’s dare last night, Blue Bonnet,” Mrs. Clyde said, gravely. “A moment’s thought should have been enough to deter you.”

“Somehow, I never do seem to do my thinking until afterwards,” Blue Bonnet mourned.

“But ‘afterwards,’ when there had been plenty of time for thought, you still went on.”

286 “Y—yes,” Blue Bonnet admitted, “but it didn’t seem as if I could give in before Kitty did, Grandmother.”

“It is not so many years ago, Blue Bonnet,” Grandmother said, “that a party of young people went skating up at that end of the pond, against orders, and that one of them did not come back with the rest.”

“Grandmother! And you had that to think about—all last evening!”

“Yes, Blue Bonnet.”

“I—hate myself! I’ll never take such a silly dare as that was last night again!”

“It is my experience,” Grandmother observed, “that most dares come under that description.”

When Aunt Lucinda came up just before supper, bringing messages from various friends, and a little knot of lemon verbena and heliotrope from Sarah’s window garden, she found Blue Bonnet looking very sober.

“We shall not have to keep you prisoner to-morrow, my dear,” Miss Lucinda said. “I expect we shall have numerous callers, even if it is Sunday.”

Blue Bonnet laid Sarah’s flowers against her face. “I’m sorry the club couldn’t meet—it’s the first time we’ve missed since starting.” For a moment or two, she lay looking across at her aunt in the low chair before the fire; then she asked,287 suddenly, “Aunt Lucinda, aren’t you going to—say anything to me?”

“Say anything, Blue Bonnet?”

“About—last night?”

“Haven’t you and your grandmother talked things over, Blue Bonnet?”

“Yes,” Blue Bonnet answered, “but Grandmother was just—dear, and I thought—I don’t mean that you’re not—” Blue Bonnet colored, “only it does seem as if someone ought to—scold me. It was so horrid of me.”

Miss Lucinda half smiled. “And you consider that my especial prerogative? No, Blue Bonnet, I am not going to ‘say anything,’ as you express it, to you. I am going to ask that another time you will give a little thought to the worry and anxiety your heedlessness is likely to cause other people. I do not think you realize how troubled your grandmother was last evening.”

“Oh, I will try,” Blue Bonnet’s voice trembled. “I will, I truly will, Aunt Lucinda!”

“Solomon,” she confided to him later, as they two were alone in the firelight, “Solomon, Aunt Lucinda can be such a dear!”



The storm was followed by the thaw; a very thorough-going thaw, which gave Blue Bonnet her first experience of what country roads can be like under such conditions.

“We can’t skate, we can’t coast, we can’t ride, and the walking is—”

“That’s just what it is!” Boyd agreed.

“Then what can we do?” Blue Bonnet looked at Alec, as if expecting him to solve the difficulty.

“You might meditate and invite your soul,” he suggested.

It was a Saturday morning, and the three were sitting on the Clyde’s back porch in the sunshine. Blue Bonnet had explained that she could stay only “a moment”—that she was dusting; but Blue Bonnet’s minutes were apt to prove elastic.

“I don’t want to invite my soul!” she protested now. On the whole, the past fortnight had been very tiresome; what she wanted, more than anything at this moment, was to have some fun—fun spelled with a capital F.

Lying alone in the twilight that Saturday evening two weeks ago, she had made all manner of good resolutions, among which, being in early had289 taken prominent place. Then the thaw had come, and there had been no excuse for staying out.

Worst of all, the warm February wind, with its touch of Spring softness, blowing the last few days, would keep sending her thoughts back to the great open sweep of the prairie. Oh, for one long ride across it with Uncle Cliff! One glimpse of the old familiar ranch life! Of Uncle Joe and old Benita!

“Woodford is dull,” Boyd was saying,—“at least for us outsiders. There’s no use denying it.”

Blue Bonnet flicked her duster; that was what had brought her out to the porch in the first place, and whenever the thought that she ought to go in grew too insistent, she flicked it again.

“That makes ten times,” Alec laughed. “I’ve kept tally.”

“I suppose,” Blue Bonnet said, slowly, “that Aunt Lucinda would say, that neither was there any use in asserting it.”

“Without doubt,” Boyd agreed.

“Maybe it’s just me.” Blue Bonnet looked at Alec; and somehow, he couldn’t help feeling glad that she had not used Boyd’s “us.”

“I’m afraid not,” he answered, “though it’s very kind of you to be willing to shoulder all the responsibility. We might get up a crowd and go in town this afternoon.”

“Museum!” Boyd scoffed. “Botanical Gardens! Library! I don’t see myself.”

290 “It’s club day,” Blue Bonnet said.

“Chuck it!” Boyd advised.

And suddenly, Blue Bonnet felt a strange desire to follow his suggestion. It would be an indoor meeting; they would all bring their work. She could see the six bags ranged in a circle about the table, could see Sarah taking small, precise stitches in the apron she was making for the third youngest Blake, could hear Kitty teasing them all, and Ruth trying to keep peace.

While between now and club time lay dusting, and mending, and lessons to get.

She was tired of being “good” and “behaving properly”! She might as well have been born Sarah Blake and done with it.

“Isn’t there anything new to do?” She turned imploring eyes to Alec. “Something exciting and out of the everlasting old rut!”

“What’s the use of asking him?” Boyd said. “He’s already made two suggestions.”

For a moment, Alec said nothing; then he got up. “May I have ten minutes—to make quite sure it is feasible in?”

Blue Bonnet’s face brightened. “Will it happen in ten minutes?”

“Happen, if it happens at all, it won’t happen until this afternoon. Come along, Boyd—there’ll be work enough for two.”

Blue Bonnet slipped from the porch railing to her291 feet. “Did you bring that horrid word in on purpose? And, Alec, you know, I can’t really ‘chuck’ the club—wouldn’t Aunt Lucinda love that word! It wouldn’t do.”

“Who wants you to?”

“Will the club be in it?”

“If I have to use a club to get them there!”

Boyd whistled softly; collectively, he did not find the “We are Seven’s” so interesting.

Ten minutes later, Blue Bonnet, down on her knees giving the final finish to the spindle legs of the oldest mahogany card table, heard Alec calling to her from one of the side windows. “All serene,” he said. “Mind, you show up at three o’clock, promptly! Take the side door and make straight for the attic! By the way, there’ll be supper afterwards. Norah’s grumbling beautifully about it right now.”

“And the club?” Blue Bonnet asked, joyfully.

“Boyd and I’ll look out for them. So long!”

Blue Bonnet flew to tell Grandmother the good news, cheerfully ignoring the fact that she and her work-basket had been for some time overdue up there.

“Do you suppose it’s charades?” she asked.

“Shall we two have a tableau now?” Grandmother suggested. “‘The Mending-hour’?”

“We played charades at the Doyles’ one night,” Blue Bonnet went on, as she settled herself in the292 low sewing-chair beside her grandmother. “They were lots of fun! This isn’t.” Blue Bonnet dropped the darning egg into the toe of a stocking rather impatiently. “It would be a whole lot easier just to run a draw string ’round the holes and tie them up.”

“Until you came to walking on them,” Mrs. Clyde laughed. “Careful, dear—remember, ‘the more haste, the less speed.’”

“That’s one of the things I never can remember; and that reminds me—Grandmother, I’ve never answered Carita Judson’s Christmas-box letter.”

“Then isn’t it about time you did?”

“Uncle Joe—when he’s away from the ranch—just wires every little while,—he says it saves time and trouble.”

“I hardly think I should adopt that plan with Carita, dear.”

“No, but I’ll write to her to-morrow afternoon, after I’ve written Uncle Cliff.”

Promptly at quarter to three the other members of the club appeared in a body, and the seven went across to the Trent’s side door, where several pairs of rubbers showed that they were not the first arrivals.

Up the two flights of stairs to the attic they hurried. “What are they doing!” Kitty exclaimed. “It sounds like steam rollers!”

293 “Who says we can’t go skating?” Alec laughed, coming to meet them, as they reached the head of the second flight.

“Alec!” Blue Bonnet cried, joyfully. “Oh, you are the cleverest boy!”

“Roller skating!” Kitty clapped her hands, delightedly. “That will be fun! Alec, Blue Bonnet’s right!”

A wide space had been cleared from end to end of the big attic, and the stairway opening protected by a line of trunks; over other trunks bits of curtain stuff had been thrown for seats; before the windows, Alec had fastened heavy draperies, shutting out the daylight, while from the rafters hung lighted Chinese lanterns, left over from some garden party.

“Isn’t it pretty!” Susy cried—“We never dreamed of anything like this!”

“Ladies’ Day at the new Trent Rink!” Boyd said. “We have made rather a tidy job of it, haven’t we?—considering what short notice we had.”

“Step this way, ladies—for your skates!” Billy Slade cried, from the corner where the table stood piled with skates.

“We’re all here now—so the party can begin,” Alec agreed.

“Just we girls and a boy apiece,” Debby was counting heads.

294 “But,” Blue Bonnet questioned, as Alec fastened her skates for her, “whatever made you think of it?”

“It was pretty well up to me to think of something—mighty quick; and I had an inward conviction that what you wanted was something with more or less movement to it.”

“One thing,” Billy Slade announced, one eye on Kitty,—“if anybody should dare anybody to go to the end of the pond, they could get back all right before—”

“Billy’s thinking of his supper already!” Kitty cut in; at which Billy, who certainly had a weakness in that direction, colored hotly, and immediately after, by way of adding to his ease of mind, sat down with more abruptness than grace.

“You don’t mean to say that you’re too faint to stand!” Kitty held out a mocking hand.

But Billy was not the only one to sit down in like fashion, poor Sarah being especially active in that line. Indeed, Kitty declared it made her positively dizzy, trying to decide whether Sarah was going down, or getting up.

“I—I’ve never had on roller skates before,” Sarah explained rather breathlessly, and the look in her eyes seemed to imply that she hoped never to have them on again.


“But it’s fun—isn’t it?” Blue Bonnet caught her enthusiastically about the waist. “To think295 that, if it hadn’t been for Alec, we girls would have been sitting poked up over our work!”

This time, Sarah’s look implied that in her opinion there were worse ways of passing an afternoon than sitting comfortably around a bright fire with one’s sewing.

“I—” she began, then went down, taking Blue Bonnet with her.

“That’s right!” Kitty called, “just sit down together and talk it over,” and promptly followed their example, thanks to a gentle shove from Billy Slade.

But if there were frequent tumbles, there were no serious ones; as Debby put it, they fell to rise again.

“We’ll start a roller-skating club, and call ourselves the ‘Phoenix Club,’” one of the boys declared.

All in all, “Ladies’ Day at the Trent Rink” proved a thorough success. It proved, too, an excellent outlet for the superfluous energies of at least one member there.

“I don’t know when I’ve had such a good time, or been so tired!” Blue Bonnet confided to Amanda, as they sat resting on a low steamer trunk.

For the afternoon had been by no means confined to skating—in the exact sense of the word; everything which could be done on roller skates, and some—which, as it proved, could not,—had296 been tried. Tag, blind-man’s buff, hide and seek; and as the grand finale, the Virginia Reel, to the tune of Alec’s whistling.

Downstairs in the kitchen, Norah paused more than once in her work to wonder if the old house was coming down about her ears.

“Let’s do it every week!” Kitty urged, as they dropped down, breathless and happy, to take off their skates—while from below came the appetizing odor of hot chocolate.

“I’ve never seen you so beautifully untidy before in all my life, Sarah Blake,” Debby assured Sarah, as the girls went down to the best room to freshen up for supper.

“I am afraid we have been very boisterous,” Sarah said, soberly, “and yet—it has been rather enjoyable.”

“It’s a good thing the General wasn’t home,” Susy laughed; “though I suppose if he had been Alec wouldn’t have planned such a lively party.”

They had a picnic supper, instead of the regulation sit-down-to-the-table affair; fresh graham bread sandwiches, apple-pie and cheese, doughnuts, and the hot chocolate with whipped cream.

And the appetites!

“Sure ’tis a comfort to know none of you do be pinin’ like,” Norah laughed, as she refilled the sandwich plate for the third time.

297 “You shouldn’t make them so good,” one of the boys told her.

“And you should have seen how hard we worked,” Ruth added.

“I’m not sayin’ I’ve not been hearin’ you!” Norah retorted. She smiled to herself as she glanced at Alec’s face—the boy was a boy for sure nowadays,—thanks mainly to “that there” Blue Bonnet.

After supper, they told stories—not being inclined to anything more active in the way of amusement; and when presently the General appeared, he found his dining-room given up to a very contented set of young people.

“We’re having a beautiful time!” Blue Bonnet went to meet him. “Don’t you want to come tell stories, too? But it hasn’t been all story-telling.”

“And what has it all been?” General Trent asked, as Alec helped him off with his overcoat, and drew forward a chair.

“The Great and Only Trent Roller-Skating Rink opened its doors to the public this afternoon, sir,” Boyd explained.

“Isn’t that something new?” his grandfather asked.

“It had to be something new, sir; our neighbor,” Boyd glanced towards Blue Bonnet, “insisted upon that. I think we more than fulfilled expectations.298 But it was certainly impromptu. Wasn’t it, old chap?” he smiled good-naturedly at Alec.

“Rather,” Alec answered, dryly.

“Well! Well!” the General said. And Blue Bonnet felt that he was giving credit for the idea, where credit was not due; and that Boyd had meant him to.

“One would think——” she began.

Alec looked up quickly. “Have you any strength left for thinking?”

“Attention!” Boyd commanded. “General Trent has the floor. He is going to tell us a story.”

The General looked gratified, though he protested that his stories were all old. He liked to tell of those early days of his at West Point; but he had got out of the habit of speaking of them to Alec; he didn’t want the boy to feel how disappointed he was that he was not to be a West Pointer, too. Lately, however, since Boyd’s coming, he had been led more than once to draw upon his memories of cadet life. Boyd had suddenly decided that he should like to take his chance at being “General Trent” some day. “Someone ought to keep the old name up in the old line,” he explained to Alec, “and since it doesn’t appear to be your line, I may as well make it mine.”

And he listened, really interested now, to the stories his grandfather told, taking care not to hide299 his interest; conscious, as the General was, that Alec had drawn a little back from the circle of light thrown by the fire.

Blue Bonnet noticed it too, and forgot to listen with this new feeling of indignant sympathy crowding out all other ideas except the fear that Alec had overtired himself on her account. He had managed not to take too active a share in the afternoon’s merrymaking; all the same, she was afraid that it had proved rather too vigorous an affair for him.

“I don’t believe we will do it every week,” she said as they crossed the lawn together; “it might not be such fun again—second times are a bit risky—and I don’t want to spoil the thought of this.”

“Then the Trent Rink is to be a short-lived affair?”

“As far as I have any say about it.”

“It was opened in your honor, and it shall be closed at your command,” Alec laughed.

“You’re getting to be as accommodating as Uncle Cliff! I couldn’t put it stronger. But, Alec, how could you—”

“How could I what?”

“Let your grandfather think it was all—”

“See here,” Alec interposed. “I thought we were not to spoil—anything. Truly, Blue Bonnet, he did a lot of the work; and I daresay it may have looked to him as if he had pulled it off.”

300 “I don’t care how it looked to him! And if he is your cousin—I don’t like him—one bit! And I’ve had a splendid time—but it’s you I’m thanking for it!”

“You don’t expect me to find fault with you for that,” Alec laughed. “Good night, my lady.”

“Good night,” Blue Bonnet answered, and went on into the sitting-room to give Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda an account of the afternoon’s doings.

“Maybe I’m not tired,” she said, curling herself up among the pillows on the lounge, “and maybe we haven’t had a good time!”

“Doing what, my dear?” Aunt Lucinda asked, laying down her book, and suddenly realizing that the evening had seemed rather longer than usual.

“‘Acting up,’” Norah called it. “She said it sounded to her like there were forty instead of fourteen up attic, and that we weren’t one of us a day over four.”

“Poor Norah!” Mrs. Clyde laughed. “But what did ‘acting up’ consist of?”

“Falling down and getting up, mostly,” Blue Bonnet answered; “that is, for some of us. Alec rented a lot of roller-skates and turned the attic into the jolliest rink. Wasn’t it the cutest idea? And that horrid Boyd—”

“Blue Bonnet!” Miss Lucinda began.

“Well, he is horrid, Aunt Lucinda! Taking all the credit! I wish he’d never come—and I think301 Alec wishes it, too, though he’d die, rather than let on that—” Blue Bonnet paused to slip another pillow behind her back. “Please don’t let’s talk about him, Aunt Lucinda!”

“My dear, I am not aware that we were talking about him.”

“He makes me feel cross all over—the same as making crocheted shawls does.”

“I thought we were not to talk about him,” Miss Lucinda suggested, while Grandmother asked, laughingly, how many such shawls Blue Bonnet had made.

Whereupon, Blue Bonnet subsided. Gradually the little pucker of irritation the thought of Boyd had called up disappeared; the vague feeling of discontent and longing of the morning had disappeared, too, by now. She felt very grateful to Alec. She had been just in the mood for—almost anything in the way of mischief; and then—to-night, it would have been like that Saturday night, two weeks ago, all over again. Only this time, how could Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda have believed her honestly in earnest, have felt that she was ever to be depended on?

She was glad now that she had done her dusting and mending—so long as Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda were so keen about it. And at the same time, somewhere in the back of her mind was the dim remembrance of something that had been left302 undone, a remembrance which, in her present drowsy condition, she was perfectly willing should remain in the back of her mind.

And when, presently, Grandmother spoke to her, Blue Bonnet was fast asleep.

“She should be in bed,” Miss Lucinda said, as Mrs. Clyde got up to lay a light afghan over the curled-up figure among the cushions.

“She will probably rouse up in a few moments,” Mrs. Clyde answered. “I remember how I used to enjoy such a little nap before the fire at her age.”

“What is Blue Bonnet’s age?” Miss Lucinda asked, half gravely, half laughingly. “It would seem to be as variable as the weather, ranging all the way from six years to normal, but striking the latter point very seldom.”

“Are you in a hurry to have her grow up, Lucinda?”

Miss Lucinda was rather long in answering this question. “Not to grow up—as you put it,” she said at last. “I should like to see her become more responsible. She will be sixteen in June.”

Mrs. Clyde glanced at the sleeping face. “We must trust to time, and—the grace of God.”

Miss Lucinda glanced also at the flushed face in its frame of tangled hair. Blue Bonnet asleep looked more childish than ever; and yet—

303 “She should really be in bed,” Miss Lucinda said. “She is likely to take cold sleeping there.”

But at that moment, Blue Bonnet sat up, facing them with eyes almost tragic.

“Do you know!” she brought each word out with emphatic distinctness, “I haven’t prepared my lessons for Monday! I knew there was something I’d forgotten—I just couldn’t study last evening; I hated the mere sight of those tiresome books! And to-day, I forgot all about them!”

Blue Bonnet slipped to her feet and started for the closet where she kept her school-books. “That’s what comes of having a place for things and putting them in it! If they’d only been laying ’round—”

“Not to-night, Blue Bonnet,” her aunt said. “It is altogether too late for studying. You must get an early start Monday morning.”

“All right,” Blue Bonnet agreed with a readiness Miss Lucinda found discouraging; “only you’ll have to call me, Aunt Lucinda.”

“I don’t suppose,” she confided to Solomon, as she tucked his warm blanket about him, “I don’t suppose Sarah Blake ever forgets to get her lessons, do you?”

She put the question to Sarah herself, on the way home from church the next morning.

“Why, no,” Sarah answered, wonderingly. “I don’t think one ought—”

304 “How many oughts make a must?” Blue Bonnet interrupted.

Sarah colored slightly. “I am afraid I do use that word too often.” She stood a moment, her hand on the parsonage gate. There seemed to be so many more oughts in her life than in Blue Bonnet’s; and yet, everyone liked Blue Bonnet. Dr. Clark had said only the other day that she was as refreshing as one of the breezes from off her own prairies. Sarah had no desire to be called breezy, but of late she was conscious that she didn’t want to be thought—the word came hard—priggish. That was the exact term Kitty had used yesterday. “I—I don’t want to seem to be—preaching at you,” she added.

“You weren’t! You’re just a dear, good old Sarah!” In spite of the fact that they were standing right on the main street, Blue Bonnet gave her companion a hearty hug.

Sarah colored considerably more than slightly this time; no one had ever hugged her on Main Street before.

“I think,” Blue Bonnet announced later, at the dinner-table, “that, when you remember her bringing up, Sarah isn’t half bad!”

Grandmother’s eyes twinkled. “It is very kind of you to make proper allowances for her bringing up, though I had not supposed there was anything out of the way about it.”

305 “There is—from the Texas point of view,” Blue Bonnet laughed. “Anyhow, I mean to try and be more like her. That would suit you right down to the ground, wouldn’t it, Aunt Lucinda?”

“How soon do you begin, Blue Bonnet?” Miss Lucinda’s smile was most expressive.

“Why, right away!” the girl answered.

She wrote to Uncle Cliff and Carita that afternoon, was in early from her run with Solomon, and after supper was found by Miss Lucinda standing before one of the tall bookcases in the back parlor, studying the titles inside with dubious eyes.

“Aren’t there any one-volume Lives, Aunt Lucinda?” she asked. “Sarah’s Sunday evening reading was always devoted to ‘Lives.’”

“Certainly, Blue Bonnet; but just now, I think your grandmother is waiting for you to sing for her.”

Blue Bonnet relinquished her pursuit of a one-volume Life that should look fairly tempting from the outside, most willingly. Singing hymns to Grandmother in the twilight, with a break now and then into the old Spanish Ave Maria learned from Benita, seemed a far pleasanter way of passing the time.

“Grandmother,” she asked, when the singing was over, and Aunt Lucinda had lighted the low reading-lamp on the center table, “did you like reading306 dull books when you were my age? Lives, you know, and—?”

“But they are not necessarily dull reading, Blue Bonnet. My mother used to read them with me of a Sunday evening; I got to think it one of the most enjoyable evenings of the whole week. It was she who gave me my fondness for reading about things that had really happened, and of people who had really lived and struggled.”

“The persons in the books one loves best do seem alive,” Blue Bonnet said.

“So they do,” Grandmother agreed. She got up and, going over to the bookcase, which to Blue Bonnet had seemed likely to yield very little in the way of fruit, came back presently with Helen Keller’s “The Story of My Life.”

“Suppose we begin this, Blue Bonnet. I shall be much mistaken if you find it ‘dull.’”

Blue Bonnet established herself in a big chair opposite; Solomon pressed close against her skirts,—Solomon meant to insinuate himself into the chair beside his mistress so soon as Grandmother’s attention had become sufficiently diverted. Solomon appeared to enjoy being read to quite as much as Blue Bonnet did.

Very far from dull the latter found the story of the deaf, dumb, and blind girl—as told by herself. “Shall we go on with it next Sunday evening,307 Blue Bonnet?” Grandmother asked, as she closed the book.

“Mayn’t we go on with it right now, Grandmother, please?”

Mrs. Clyde pointed to the clock on the mantel. “There is studying to be done to-morrow morning before breakfast, you remember; which must mean an early start to-night.”

Blue Bonnet shoved Solomon gently to the floor—Solomon had accomplished his intention. “I am not at all sure that I approve of studying before breakfast,” she sighed.

She was quite sure that she did not when Aunt Lucinda tapped at her door the next morning, punctual to the moment. It seemed to Blue Bonnet that Woodford people carried their love of punctuality to an unnecessary extreme.

“I surely would like,” she told herself, sleepily, “to live for one while where there were no clocks!” Then she snuggled comfortably down under the warm blankets for “just one minute more.”

The next thing Blue Bonnet knew, Delia was tapping at her door with—“Half past seven, Miss!”

Half past seven!” Blue Bonnet tumbled out of bed, very wide awake. She had been asleep a whole hour!

Being in a hurry, it naturally followed that everything308 went wrong. It was an extremely flushed Blue Bonnet that slipped into her place at the breakfast table five minutes late.

“Did you get through all right, dear?” Grandmother asked.

“I didn’t begin! I—fell asleep again! I just know the ‘jolly good—’”

“Who, Blue Bonnet?” her aunt interposed.

“Miss Fellows will be anything but a ‘jolly—’ I beg your pardon, Aunt Lucinda—will be tiresome.” Blue Bonnet added an extra spoonful of sugar to her porridge, as if she felt that her day was likely to prove far from sweet. Grandmother looked disappointed, and Aunt Lucinda looked—; yet when you came to think of it, she was the one who would have to face the music.

“Something’s happened to somebody!” Kitty chanted, as her fellow club member came upstairs to the dressing-room that morning.

Blue Bonnet swung her strap of books impatiently. “I haven’t prepared a single lesson—except what I did in study hour Friday—I forgot to do them!”

“But I thought you intended getting up early,” Sarah began.

“I thought so, too—yesterday,” Blue Bonnet interrupted. She didn’t feel in the least inclined to adopt Sarah for a model this morning. Just at present the sight of Sarah’s placid face, framed309 in smooth plaits of blond hair, roused a sudden unreasoning desire in her to shake Sarah Blake. Sarah would answer every question put to her in her slow, correct way.

“You’ll have to bluff for all you’re worth,” Debby advised,—Debby was an authority in the gentle art of bluffing teachers.

“Yes,” Kitty chimed in. “When you forget to ‘do’ your lessons, you must remember to ‘do’ the teacher.”

Blue Bonnet turned away; they were very unsympathetic! Uncle Cliff would have cared—and Alec.

Miss Fellows was at her desk; her smile, as she said good morning, sent a warm glow to the girl’s heart. She was sorry things would have to be horrid, they had got on beautifully—so far.

All at once she turned, coming up to the desk. “You might as well know the worst beforehand, Miss Fellows,” she said, impulsively. “I expect I’ll have a lot of failures to-day.”

“Dear me, are you quite sure?” Miss Fellows asked, sympathetically.

“Quite—and it’s all my own fault,” Blue Bonnet went on to explain the situation; when she reached the “one minute more” part, her listener felt suddenly for her pocket handkerchief. “It isn’t very easy getting up early these mornings,”310 she observed; “but we won’t give up hope so soon, Blue Bonnet.”

It was after morning exercises, that Miss Fellows announced, most unexpectedly, that the Latin lesson that morning would be in the nature of a general review.

“Why couldn’t she have told us Friday, instead of giving out a lesson the same as usual?” Kitty whispered to Amanda.

Blue Bonnet came home that afternoon at the usual time and quite her usual light-hearted self. Balancing on the arm of a chair, she gleefully explained the turn affairs had taken at school that day.

“Wasn’t it the luckiest thing that the ‘jolly good’—please, Aunt Lucinda, I must call her that this time!—should have hit on to-day for a review all along the line?”

“Including English, Blue Bonnet?” Miss Lucinda suggested.

Blue Bonnet laughed. “Including everything—except French—she doesn’t have that; but I managed all right there, I’d been over the ground at home. As it happened, I needn’t have told her what I did this morning.”

“And what did you tell her?” Grandmother asked.

“Why all about what Kitty calls—my sleep and311 a forgetting. I thought she might as well be prepared for what was coming.”

“Lucinda,” Mrs. Clyde remarked, when Blue Bonnet had gone out. “Suppose we were to invite Miss Fellows to tea some evening? She strikes me as being a woman of a—singularly sympathetic disposition.”

Miss Lucinda smiled—a little unwillingly.

“Please, Aunt Lucinda,” Blue Bonnet came back just then to say, “I forgot to tell you—I’m so sorry I got you up unnecessarily this morning. I reckon getting out early to study isn’t much in my line.”



Kitty came down the class-room aisle as jubilant and beaming, as if, outside, March winds and March rains were not having it all their own way.

“I’ve my subject for the Sargent!” she announced to the little group gathered about one of the windows at the far end of the room.

“What is it?” Debby asked.

“That’s telling,” Kitty settled herself on the window-seat beside Blue Bonnet.

“I wish I had mine,” Amanda sighed. “Have you yours, Blue Bonnet?”

“I’m not going to write any.” Blue Bonnet felt a swift relief in this sudden settling of the question, once for all. She didn’t want to even hear about the Sargent just then. She wanted to get out in the rain, to battle with the wind and storm, instead of watching it here from the window. But there wouldn’t be any good in getting out for the little while recess lasted. It must have been someone like the founder of the Sargent prize who had settled on half-hour recesses.

“Not going to try!” Susy exclaimed, wonderingly. “But we’re all going to, Blue Bonnet!”

313 “Probably.”

“It’s the—the proper thing to do, you know,” Ruth added.

“Ruth’s poaching on your ground, Sarah!” Kitty remarked.

Blue Bonnet twisted the end of her long braid impatiently. “That’s one reason why I am not going to try! There are so many ‘proper things’ to be done here in Woodford.”

“Don’t you worry, my dear,” Kitty observed; “no one’s likely to mistake you for a true, bred-in-the-bone Woodfordite—yet awhile.”

“You’ll be the only one of the ‘We are Seven’s’ not trying, Blue Bonnet,” Ruth protested.

“That’ll be something. Anyhow, only one girl can get it, out of the whole class.”

“That’s what makes it so jolly if one does win!” Kitty explained.

“I think it would be horrid, winning it away from everyone else!” Blue Bonnet declared. “And if one didn’t win—that would be horrid too.”

“But,” Sarah said slowly, “even if one doesn’t win the prize, won’t it be better, for one’s self, I mean, to know one has tried?”

“It is better to have tried and lost,
Than never tried at all.”

Kitty chanted.

Sarah looked grave; “I don’t think you should parody those lines, Kitty!”

314 Kitty wrinkled up her pert little nose. “Don’t you, Sallykins? Then I won’t—until the next time they come in handy.”

“Kitty, be good!” Ruth urged.

“‘And let who will, be clever,’” Debby added. “Has anyone heard how Mademoiselle is? Will she be able to come to-day?”

“She’s worse!” Ruth said, “I asked this morning.”

All but Sarah and Amanda—who were not taking French—groaned. It was Wednesday,—French day,—and it would make the third time running that Mademoiselle had had to be absent. It would also mean Monsieur Hugo again.

“It’s very provoking, how the wrong persons will go and get sick,” Debby sighed. “No one would have minded Monsieur Hugo getting the grip!”

“As if he could ever really substitute for Mademoiselle Lamotte,” Susy protested—the class adored Mademoiselle. “We haven’t had a decent recitation with him yet.”

“It’s all his fault!” Debby insisted; “he’s so cross and so—polite. I mean it,” she added, as the rest laughed, “I don’t know whether to call it crossly polite, or politely cross. One could stand either of them alone—but together!”

“My prophetic soul warns me that there are breakers ahead!” Kitty said.

315 And that afternoon, catching sight of Monsieur through the half-open door, she leaned forward to whisper to Blue Bonnet, who sat just in front, “I’ve discovered what he’s like—he looks as though he had been brought up on his own irregular verbs and they hadn’t agreed with him.”

“Wouldn’t you have wanted them to?” Blue Bonnet laughed back.

“Katherine! Elizabeth!” Miss Fellows said, adding that the French class were to go to their recitation-room at once.

“She should have said—the class in French,” Debby commented, slipping into place behind Blue Bonnet and Kitty, “Poor Monsieur, I’m rather sorry for him.”

“I’m letting pity begin at home!” Kitty returned, as the three retired modestly to the back row, leaving the front seats for Hester Manly and what Kitty called, “the other stars.”

“The class will come to order!” Monsieur was looking straight at the back row; he had very keen eyes behind his gold-rimmed spectacles.

That was a truly awful half-hour for more than one member of the class.

Monsieur did not in the least understand “the youth American,” and had even less sympathy with what he considered his present pupils’ inexcusable lack of preparation.

Extremely polite in voice and manner, but possessing316 to a marked degree the gift of sarcasm, his methods were so dissimilar from those of their beloved Mademoiselle—who had the knack of extracting answers from the most unpromising pupil—that the majority of the class soon gave up trying to make even a creditable showing; deciding, apparently, that endurance—and dumb endurance at that—was the only course left them.

His polite request that they should not all endeavor to reply at once, they obeyed to the letter.

“He’s only a ‘sub,’ anyhow,” Kitty reminded Blue Bonnet.

Blue Bonnet’s face was crimson; he was too hateful—she shouldn’t try to answer another single question.

Monsieur was on his feet by now, walking back and forth before the class, gesticulating nervously, shrugging impatiently; was it possible that he had made the mistake—that they were not the class in French after all? Or was it that they took not the interest in his language? He was there to instruct, to hear the recitations, to correct the pronunciation, mais

All of which, poured out in rapid French, did not help matters any.

“We go now to make the attempt further,” he opened the book again. “Mademoiselle,” he fixed his glance on Hester, “will kindly translate.”

Hester did her best, which was not so bad after317 what had gone before, and for a few moments peace descended on the room. But Hester giving place presently to her next neighbor, a boy who was only taking French because another fellow had said it was a whole lot easier than German, trouble began once more.

“That will do!” Monsieur closed his book. “It is incomprehensible—the badness of it!” He looked from one to another of the faces before him, some flushed, some indifferent, some sullen, and some genuinely distressed. “We will call it the failure—all complete. You comprehend that? The failure for each! For the next time, we take the same lesson. Moi, I do not permit myself the hope that it will go better, I have not the room for hope left—only the amazement, indescribable. The class is dismissed.”

Three minutes after general dismission that afternoon, an indignation meeting was held in that same little recitation-room.

“He’s an old—” Kitty’s gesture, borrowed from Monsieur, filled out her sentence.

“At least, he didn’t show any partiality—when it came to compliments,” one of the boys laughed.

“Some of us did fail,” Ruth began.

“We did,” the other cut in.

“But not all—Hester and some of the rest did all right; it wasn’t fair, giving them failures too.”

“Maybe,” another boy suggested, “he was trying318 to strike the general average. I say—wouldn’t Mademoiselle have been proud of us!”

“I’ll never, never recite to him again!” Debby declared.

“Has any one accused you of reciting this afternoon?” her brother Billy asked.

“Nor will I!” Kitty exclaimed.

“Listen—everybody!” Billy jumped up on to one of the benches. “Let’s take a vote on it—here and now! Supposing—which the fates forbid!—Monsieur Hugo should again—present himself in the capacity of substitute for Mademoiselle, will the class cut class in a body?—or will it not?”

“It will!” one of his mates answered promptly.

For a few moments confusion reigned supreme; then one of the older boys, deposing Billy, not too gently, succeeded in getting the attention of the rest. “It is hereby resolved, and so forth,” he said. “Those in favor—kindly signify in the usual manner! The ayes have it! Majority rules.”

“Oh, dear,” one of the girls said anxiously, “I hope he doesn’t come again.”

“I don’t,” Kitty insisted, “I’d just like to show him—”

“But,” Blue Bonnet said, as the club members went downstairs together—all except Sarah and Amanda, “wouldn’t it be a great deal simpler to go tell Mr. Hunt that you didn’t want that Monsieur Hugo again?”

319 Kitty stopped to stare at her. “Bless the child’s ignorance! I’d like to see any of us doing it!”

“I wouldn’t mind—truly,” Blue Bonnet answered.

Kitty turned on her almost fiercely; “You’d better not, Blue Bonnet Ashe! This is a class affair—don’t you forget that!”

“Well,” Ruth said thoughtfully, “it is to be hoped Mademoiselle is able to come Friday; we’ll be in pretty hot water if she isn’t.”

Blue Bonnet was looking perplexed; school life seemed full of unexpected pitfalls. “I suppose,” she questioned, “that cutting class is considered pretty bad?”

“We sha’n’t exactly expect rewards of merit for doing it,” Debby answered.

“Which way did you vote, Blue Bonnet?” Kitty asked, sharply.

“I didn’t vote; before I really understood what it was you were all going to do, Billy told me it was quite settled.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Kitty said; “of course, you’ll go with the class; unless—”

“Unless?” Blue Bonnet repeated.

Kitty laughed. “Unless you want to be jolly uncomfortable afterwards.”

“We’re all of us likely to be that,” Ruth said hurriedly, as Blue Bonnet’s color rose. “Oh, I’m not backing out—so you needn’t look at me in320 that tone of voice, Kitty! But I’ve got sense enough not to look forward with any pleasure to a tussle with the powers that be.”

“The powers that be shouldn’t have sent such a horrid substitute!” Debby insisted.

Contrary to her usual habit, Blue Bonnet did not go into the sitting-room on reaching home, but straight on up to her own room. Curling herself up in the window-seat overlooking the bare, rain-swept garden, she tried to think things over; knowing all the while that for her there was no choice.

“I am going to put you on your honor not to disobey in this fashion again; and so try to conform more carefully to all the rules of the school.” The words had been running through her mind all the way home.

She had promised.

The girls would think that she was—Blue Bonnet moved restlessly; they must think what they would. Oh, why had Mademoiselle gone and got the grip! If it had not been for what Kitty had said about it’s being a class affair, she could have gone to Mr. Hunt and asked him to release her from her promise. He would have understood. He had understood perfectly that morning; and been so kind.

“Solomon,” she said wearily, as he came rubbing against her, asking reproachfully why she had left321 it for him to find out that she had got home, “Solomon, old chap, we’re up against it!”

Solomon jumped up beside her, sticking his cold nose under her soft chin.

“If it isn’t one thing, it’s another, at school, Solomon,” she told him. “Be mighty thankful you don’t have to go to school, sir.”

It was a very sober Blue Bonnet who came down at last to the sitting-room, where Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda waited anxiously, Aunt Lucinda being of Blue Bonnet’s own mind—that if it were not one thing, it was apt to be another.

“Did you get wet, dear?” Grandmother asked.

“Not to amount to anything.” Blue Bonnet dropped down on the lounge, looking as if life were all at once too much for her.

“Has anything gone wrong at school, my dear?” her aunt asked.

“I should rather think there had! But I can’t tell you about it, Aunt Lucinda; because it’s what Kitty calls—‘a class affair.’”

Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda looked relieved; there was safety in numbers; but Blue Bonnet, lying back among the cushions, watched the little flames opposite dance and flicker, with troubled eyes.

They had all taken it for granted that she would act with them, and when she did not—

It would spoil everything, the club good times—everything.322 Blue Bonnet sprang up and went to her practising; Mademoiselle must come on Friday! Surely she would be well enough by then.

It was just before supper that Alec ran over to return a book; he found Blue Bonnet alone in the back parlor.

“You did have a lively time this afternoon,” he said. “No, I can’t wait to sit down. I must go right back.”

“Alec, did you ever cut class?” Blue Bonnet asked.

“No, but—”

“Then you would, if—”

“I’d stand by my class, naturally. I hope there won’t be any ifs. I’m not ’round looking up trouble.”

“I think school is—hateful!”

“Halloa! Why only the other day you were—”

“The other day was the other day; to-day is—different.”

“What’s up?—this business of Monsieur Hugo? He must be a wonder!”

“I hate French!”

“Or one particular Frenchman?” Alec laughed.

“I wish I’d taken German.”

Alec looked puzzled; Blue Bonnet couldn’t be af—, he broke the word off hastily. Why, he had expected to find her ready and eager to seize the323 chance to throw her gauntlet with the rest, with all her usual disregard of consequences.

“Mademoiselle’ll be on hand, you’ll see,” he said, trying not to show his surprise, but Blue Bonnet felt the change in his voice. He would think her afraid, too. None of them would understand.

“I’ve decided on my Sargent,” he added, as if glad to change the subject.

“Have you?” Blue Bonnet’s pretense at interest was not very successful. “Everybody seems to be getting their subjects. I’m glad I’m not trying. What is yours?”

“It’s a secret—remember?”

“I can keep secrets, and—promises.”

Alec looked at her, wonderingly, caught by something in her voice. “I’m going to write up about some of the earlier Sargent winners—not the famous ones, they’ve been done to death, but some of the poor chaps who didn’t go on winning prizes. It won’t be easy, getting at the necessary facts.”

“It sounds interesting,” Blue Bonnet said.

She went with him to the door. The rain had stopped and over in the west the clouds had taken on a touch of sunset color. The wind had changed; it blew fresh and cool against Blue Bonnet’s face.

“It’s going to clear, isn’t it?” she asked.

Alec nodded.

324 Blue Bonnet’s spirits rose; it was going to clear—everything would come out right, after all.

But when Friday came, Mademoiselle, though better, was still unable to come to her classes.

“Mind,” Debby warned Blue Bonnet at recess, “that you take your books home at noon. We often do on Fridays, so it won’t be noticed.”

Blue Bonnet, making a pretense at studying, looked up, questioningly. “Why?”

“We only have drawing and French Friday afternoons; and we sha’n’t be coming back to our room after French to-day. One doesn’t cut class and then walk back to her place like a good little girl.”

“I suppose not,” Blue Bonnet said. She must tell them, it wasn’t fair not to. “But I am not—going to cut class.”

It was Kitty who broke the short silence that followed. “Blue Bonnet Ashe, do you mean that?”

“Yes,” Blue Bonnet answered. She—would tell them why. She couldn’t bear to have them think her—not loyal.

“Maybe,” Kitty’s gray eyes were full of scorn. “Maybe you have taken French longer than we have, but you certainly do not seem to have learned the meaning of ‘esprit de corps’! Perhaps they don’t teach that sort of thing—out in Texas!”

Blue Bonnet drew back as if struck, her face325 white. She would never tell them her reason now! They could think what they liked. She would never speak to Kitty Clark again!

“Kitty, how can you!” Debby cried. “Blue Bonnet! surely you don’t mean that you—”

Will you please go away!” Blue Bonnet broke in.

“I hope you don’t think we intend staying?” Kitty answered. “Perhaps you are wise not to risk being sent to Mr. Hunt a second time.”

One swift, upward flash, Blue Bonnet could not help, then she sat quite still looking down at the book lying open on the desk before her, with unseeing eyes. She was determined that she would not cry.

It seemed as if noontime would never come; she hated the big, busy schoolroom and—everybody in it; at least, nearly everybody! Girls were—detestable. A boy wouldn’t have said a thing like that. If Uncle Cliff could know how mean Kitty had been. One thing was sure—they could never be friends again.

“My dear,” Mrs. Clyde asked, as Blue Bonnet came in to lunch, “what has happened?”

Blue Bonnet tossed her coat and hat on to the lounge, and pushed back her hair from her hot face. “Everything has happened!”

“My dear—”

“And I can’t tell you what it is, Grandmother.326 I wish I’d never seen the old academy! I can’t think how anyone likes going to school!”

“But I hoped that the trouble was over, Blue Bonnet.”

“It’s only just begun!”

“Then I am afraid that I shall have to ask questions, dear.”

“I couldn’t answer them—yet. Please, Grandmother, need I bother with lunch? I’m not hungry.”

But Mrs. Clyde was firm on that point; Blue Bonnet must eat a proper lunch if she wanted to go back to school.

“I don’t want to,” she said, with a little laugh; “only I’ve just got to, or they would think—” Blue Bonnet hurried through her luncheon in a way Aunt Lucinda, had she been there, would hardly have countenanced; but when it was over, she lingered in the garden with Solomon until there was barely time to get back to school.

There, she went straight to her desk, trying not to see the little group gathered about Debby’s seat, and scarcely answering Sarah’s remark about the club-meeting to-morrow.

Sarah would think it was her duty to be just the same as usual, but she didn’t want “duty friendliness.” Good; Miss Fellows was going to ring for order right now.

Blue Bonnet was glad that drawing followed327 immediately; one didn’t have to answer questions in drawing, and there was a chance to think. Though in this case, thinking only meant going over and over the same old road and winding up each time at the same high, blank wall. Once, glancing up unexpectedly, she found Ruth looking at her in a wonder that was half reproach.

Blue Bonnet dropped her pencil on to the desk and turned to the window. Ruth loved law and order as she did not, and yet Ruth was prepared to act in open defiance of both, in obedience to that intangible something called “class spirit.”

Blue Bonnet stared at the soft, fleecy clouds piling themselves up like great, white snow-drifts. Was she wrong after all?

And then the clouds sent her thoughts back to that night on the pond, to the long, weary tramp afterwards through real snow-drifts. Was this, after all, another sort of dare? Were they—all those others, consciously or unconsciously, daring her now to break her promise?

But “living straight and true” could never mean breaking one’s word.

“Miss Elizabeth!” the drawing-master laid a hand on her book; he intended criticizing rather sharply her work, or, rather, lack of work, but the face she turned towards him disarmed him.

“Why, you are not even doing your second best,” he said, with a smile.

328 “I beg your pardon, Mr. Post,” she answered.

“We are not studying cloud effects to-day, you know,” he suggested.

“I was thinking about—something.” Blue Bonnet took up her pencil again; fifteen minutes more and—

Debby was signaling to her, doing it rather openly, too. Blue Bonnet shook her head, impatiently. Why wouldn’t they let her alone?

“That will do for to-day,” she heard Mr. Post say at last.

Five minutes later, she found herself out in the corridor with the other members of the French class. Billy, making elaborate motions to the rest to be very cautious, was leading the way towards the back stairs; his start of surprise when Blue Bonnet took the turn to the little recitation-room beyond, oddly enough, was one of the hardest things about the whole affair for her. It said so plainly that she was the last girl he would have expected to go back on them.

“Blue Bonnet,”—Susy, risking detection, had slipped after her, putting a hand into hers,—“Blue Bonnet, you don’t understand!”

“Yes, I do,” Blue Bonnet faced about, meeting squarely the surprise, scorn, indignation, and incredulity, in those fourteen pairs of eyes. “I understand perfectly.”

329 A moment more and she had closed the door of the recitation-room behind her.

Monsieur was not there yet. From the open window came a sound of muffled laughter, suddenly hushed; the class had reached the yard.

Monsieur was coming now. Blue Bonnet went over to her usual place; it didn’t matter if he were cross, nothing mattered—now that she was really started along the dismal road leading to that dreary land called Coventry,—a land that in the old Texas days she had never dreamed of even sighting.

Then the door opened; but it was not Monsieur who entered. Blue Bonnet caught her breath at sight of Mr. Hunt.

“Good afternoon, Elizabeth,” he said, his quick glance taking in the empty places; “I am sorry to have kept you waiting. I am taking Mademoiselle’s place to-day.”

“Monsieur Hugo is not coming?”

“No—he is not coming.” Mr. Hunt opened the book in his hand. “The lesson is—? Or suppose,” he glanced again at Blue Bonnet’s face, “suppose we do not take up the regular lesson this afternoon—but have a little conversation—in French, of course—instead?”

It was the shortest French recitation the old room had ever seen. And it is to be feared that even then the teacher did most of the “conversing.”

330 When it was over, and they were leaving the room together, Mr. Hunt laid a hand for a moment on Blue Bonnet’s shoulder. “They teach you how to keep promises out in your beloved Texas, it would seem,” he said.

Blue Bonnet looked up gratefully; at least, he understood why she had come.

Once at home, and there had been no tarrying along the way that afternoon, she made straight for her room. There Mrs. Clyde found her, lying face down on the bed, shaken with sobs, while a much distressed small dog did his best to console her.

Sitting down beside the bed, Grandmother drew the story from her. “I had to do it!” Blue Bonnet sobbed. “But the girls think—If you knew what Kitty said!”

“And I am not to know everything, even yet?” Mrs. Clyde stroked the tumbled hair lovingly.

“Uncle Cliff says repeating things like that only makes them worse.”

“He is quite right, dear; but in this case—”

“If I do repeat them, I’ll only feel angrier with her than ever—and that’s useless!” Blue Bonnet dabbed her wet eyes. “Everything’s spoiled now. Oh, dear, if I just hadn’t run away those times last fall, I could have—”

“Disobeyed the rules now?” Grandmother suggested.

331 “Grandmother! Wouldn’t you have gone with your class?”

For a moment, Mrs. Clyde said nothing, there was a far-away look in her eyes; then she smiled softly. “I suppose I should have, because once I—did. But I had not promised. It makes me very proud and glad, dear, that you kept yours in spite of so much pressure from within, as well as without. And everything is not spoiled, you will see.”

Blue Bonnet sat up. “I’m glad it’s Friday! Only I wish to-morrow were not club day.”

“To-morrow isn’t here yet,” Grandmother answered. “Suppose you go give this forlorn little object a run in the garden. He is sharing in all the unhappiness, without understanding what it is about.”

“Dogs never go back on one.” Blue Bonnet gave Solomon an affectionate squeeze.

“Nor grandmothers,” Mrs. Clyde said.

“That’s one of the things that goes without saying,” Blue Bonnet answered. A good romp with Solomon helped to restore her spirits; it did not seem, after all, as if things could stay very wrong in such a world of March wind and sunshine.

The sight of Alec coming towards her across the lawn brought the doubts back. What would he think?

“Halloa!” Alec called, cheerily, and Blue Bonnet,332 suddenly on the alert, could detect no change in his manner. But perhaps he didn’t know.

Alec knew, and inwardly was much perplexed; however, where one did not understand—in the case of a friend like Blue Bonnet—one must go by faith. She had some good reason, no doubt about it.

“Look here,” he said, “I’ve evolved a capital scheme—I think I shall take up the profession of furnishing ideas to the needy. I’ve ’phoned in town, and secured a box, and to-morrow the club and one or two other persons are to be my guests at the jolliest matinée of the jolliest play of the season. Grandfather’s going to chaperon us. He makes the best chaperon going—being at heart very much of a boy,—that’s a way they have in the army. What do you say?”

“I can’t say—anything,” Blue Bonnet’s lips were trembling.



It was after opening exercises on Monday morning, that Mr. Hunt, stepping to the front of the platform, announced that the pupils from Miss Fellows’ room who had absented themselves from French on Friday afternoon, were to go to his office instead of to their classroom.

The assembly-room had been very still while the principal was speaking, but as he finished a little ripple of excitement ran over it, and here and there there was a curious turning of heads. Then Miss Rankin struck the preliminary chords, and the various classes formed into line.

Blue Bonnet, with Kitty just behind and Ruth only two places ahead, was wishing with all her heart that presently she too might drop out of line with the others. The fourteen had not been the only ones towards whom curious glances had been turned that morning. “The girl who had not cut” was as much an object of interest as the pupils who had; only there had been no sympathy for her.

That she didn’t look as if she cared, was the general verdict; Alec, watching her from his corner of the big room, knew better. He would have334 liked to tell those girls what he thought of them—it was the girls who were the worst. He was glad when opening exercises were over and Blue Bonnet had reached the comparative shelter of her classroom.

She was glad, too, though for the moment, in spirit at least, she was in the office with the fourteen. What would Mr. Hunt say to them? Kitty had said once that he could be “rather awful.” Perhaps Kitty had exaggerated; she had not found him so.

But the young people waiting in the office were not so hopeful.

“I believe he’s just keeping us waiting on purpose!” Kitty grumbled, as the moments went by and Mr. Hunt did not appear.

“We’ll lose our Latin,” Susy mourned.

“If that’s all we lose, we’ll be mighty lucky,” one of the boys told her.

“Kit’s lost her temper already,” Billy Slade remarked.

“Why didn’t he tell us he was going to take the class Friday afternoon?” his sister Debby protested. “Then we should have been all right.”

“Hush! he’s coming!” one of the other girls warned.

“Get out your hankys, young ladies!” Billy whispered. “Try and look as penitent as possible!”

335 “I won’t!” Kitty declared. “I’m not sorry, and I won’t say I am!”

“You will before he’s through with you, my young friend,” Billy retorted.

Kitty tossed her red head defiantly, but a moment later even her courage wavered at sight of Mr. Hunt’s face.

For a moment he said nothing. Then, sitting down at his desk, he put one or two direct questions to each in turn. After which followed another short silence, broken only by the ticking of the clock, and from a room below, the sound of children chanting their multiplication table in unison.

“Twice two is four!” Debby found herself nervously repeating it with them under her breath. Would Mr. Hunt never speak!

She caught Susy’s eye; Susy was looking penitent enough to touch a heart of stone, Debby thought. So, for that matter, were most of the girls.

Debby began to realize that anything begun in haste might require repenting of at leisure.

And then Mr. Hunt pronounced sentence, prefacing it first with a few remarks, which, if brief, were none the less pointed.

He considered their recent conduct utterly inexcusable; it had involved not only a wilful and deliberate breaking of rules, but, in intention, great336 discourtesy and disrespect towards a gentleman who was a comparative stranger to them, and, in a sense, the guest of the class.

He should, therefore, suspend them in a body for one week; they could report to him, before school opened, next Monday morning; also, it being an implied condition that all competitors for the Sargent should be pupils in good standing, it was an open question whether or no they would have the right to try for it. He would decide upon that later. They were dismissed.

Out in the yard, fourteen very crestfallen young people looked at each other in dismay.

Not to be allowed to try for the Sargent! Each of the fourteen felt an immediate and strong conviction that he or she would have been among the prize winners.

To be suspended for a whole week!

Ruth mopped her eyes openly. Oh, dear, what would her mother and father say!

“He certainly can do things up brown, when he sets out to,” Billy commented, a rueful note underlying his chuckle.

Kitty stamped her foot. “It isn’t fair! We had every right to do what we did—under the circumstances.”

“Except the right—to do it,” one of the boys commented.

“How everybody looks at us,” Hester sighed.337 “I suppose they’re wondering what we are all doing out of school at this time of the morning.”

“Probably they think we’re delegates to something or other,” Billy remarked, “chosen on account of good conduct.”

“Cut it!” one of his companions commanded.

“We did, once,” Debby laughed, “but we never will again.”

“It isn’t fair!” Kitty repeated; she hoped her father would see it in that light. “Come on home with me, Debby; at any rate, we sha’n’t have to study.”

“Aren’t you going to try and keep up with the class this week?” Hester asked.

Kitty shrugged. “Maybe—maybe not. I do wish Amanda Parker would go visiting for the week,” she confided to Debby, as they turned the corner together. “She’ll be mighty tiresome! She’s such an ‘I told you so’ sort of girl.”

“Isn’t it queer,” Debby said, “that Blue Bonnet, who dislikes school more than any of us do, hasn’t got to—”

“Don’t you mention Blue Bonnet Ashe to me!” Kitty broke in. “Horrid little prig!”

“You know better, Kitty Clark!”

“Then she’s a coward—and that’s even worse.”

“Alec says he knows she had some good reason.”

“Then it’s the first time she’s ever had a good reason for anything. Debby, listen—it’s as I told338 Amanda yesterday,—you’ve got to choose between us.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Kitty!”

Kitty sniffed; at that moment she resembled nothing so much as a porcupine with its quills all ready for action. “I mean it!” she insisted.

Debby herself was not in her calmest mood; inwardly she very much regretted that rash speech of hers which had set this particular ball rolling. She wasn’t going to be dictated to by Kitty Clark—who was largely to blame for the scrape they were in. “Then I choose Blue Bonnet,” she said.

“Naturally! She has so much more to offer.”

“In the way of sweet temper—I quite agree with you.”

Kitty slammed the front gate with an energy that brought her mother to the door. Mrs. Clark was something of an invalid, and her daughter had thought it as well not to trouble her with any account of Friday’s doings until she found out what the consequences were. And a particularly troublesome case had kept the doctor from reading the signs of the times.

But there was no keeping things back any longer, and Kitty went promptly to the heart of the matter, going into the subject with a fullness and a fluency that reduced her mother to the verge of hysterics.

“I don’t know what your father will say!” she339 cried, eying Kitty in mingled amazement and dismay. Girls never did such things in her day.

Kitty retired to the old swing on the side piazza. There was nothing to be ashamed of—they had only stood up for their rights. Try as she would, she could not shut out the sight of the pleasant, busy classroom, with Blue Bonnet sitting just in front of her. It had required some diplomacy to effect such an arrangement; Miss Rankin would never have allowed it. In her secret heart, Kitty had always felt that she stood just a little nearer to Blue Bonnet Ashe than any of the other club members.

But of course, all that was changed now. One could not be friends with a girl who—

Kitty gave the swing an impatient push. She was glad that she had not gone to the matinée with them on Saturday—though Alec had been mighty angry with her for holding out; Blue Bonnet should see that they were not all going to—

She was glad, too, that she had cut short Amanda’s enthusiastic account of the afternoon’s delights.

Kitty was not the only one of the fourteen to whom the thought of the classroom from which they had been exiled had grown suddenly very dear.

On the other hand, their fellow-pupils were giving no less thought to them. When recess came,340 and there was still no sign of them, excitement ran high, so did conjecture.

Blue Bonnet, standing alone quite at the lower end of the yard, wondered forlornly if all the recesses to come were to be like this? For the first time in her life, she had been cut, and by more than one schoolmate, and the experience had been far from pleasant.

Sarah, of them all, acted just as usual; but Sarah was—Sarah; Amanda was clearly on the fence—very well, she might stay there. Of her intimates among the French class, Ruth and Susy had been too absorbed in their own thoughts, during those few moments before school opened, to do more than say good morning. Debby had barely nodded, while Kitty had done neither.

It was Kitty’s attitude that hurt most. Alec had refused to give her Kitty’s reason for not accepting his invitation—as if she could not guess, and he had managed, for this time, to break down the sense of reserve and embarrassment between herself and the other girls. Besides, at the theatre one forgot other people.

But Sunday had not been easy; Blue Bonnet had come home from Sunday-school in hardly the state of mind her teacher—a gentle little body—would have rejoiced in. The talk with Grandmother in the twilight, and Aunt Lucinda’s few words of encouragement, had helped some.

341 But to-day! And there would be all of April and May, besides the rest of March and part of June, before school closed.

Blue Bonnet turned to watch a group of children; they were playing “The farmer in the dell,” and Julia Blake beckoned invitingly to her to come make one of the big ring. Any of the little Blakes could have told you what a delightful playfellow Blue Bonnet was.

Blue Bonnet shook her head; at another time she would have gone readily enough, but no one should say she had been forced into finding friends among the “primaries.”

Sarah was crossing the yard towards her, while midway between Sarah and the open doors, Amanda halted, irresolutely.

“Oh, Blue Bonnet!” Sarah called.

Blue Bonnet stood still, her hands behind her. “Duty or choice?” she demanded, as Sarah came up.

Sarah looked puzzled.

“Did you come because you wanted to, or because you didn’t want to?”

“Why shouldn’t I want to?” Sarah looked really hurt.

Blue Bonnet slipped an arm about her. “Sarah, you dear, I might’ve known you wouldn’t go back on me.”

“I don’t think the others have—truly; you see,342 from their side of it, it does almost seem as if you hadn’t played—quite fair. But I’m sure you must’ve had some reason, and if you would tell me what it was, I could—explain.”

For a moment Blue Bonnet hesitated; so far as she knew, only Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda—excepting, of course, Mr. Hunt—knew why she had not gone with her class. Then she drew herself up; if they couldn’t take her on trust—as Alec and Sarah had—

“Is that what you wanted me for?” she asked.

“Partly; but I thought you might like to hear about the rest. Miss Fellows just told me they are suspended for a week—”

“It seems to me that that is what you might call putting a premium on crime,” Blue Bonnet commented; a whole week’s vacation—which is what it would really amount to.

“Blue Bonnet!”

“Is that all Mr. Hunt did?”

All!” Sarah gasped. “It’s about as bad as it can be; but, in addition, they may not be allowed to try for the Sargent.”

“I suppose they will mind that—after worrying so to get their subjects, but I reckon only Hester stood any chance—among the girls.”

Sarah looked utterly bewildered. “Blue Bonnet, you are so—”

“So what? There’s the bell!”

343 All in all, Blue Bonnet found that week a long one; she drew a deep breath of relief when Friday afternoon came.

Ruth and Susy had not been in town since Monday, and she had seen nothing of them. Debby, when she had met her on the street, had been fairly friendly; that she had not been more so, was perhaps as much Blue Bonnet’s fault as hers. Kitty would have been openly unfriendly had Blue Bonnet given her the opportunity. Amanda was still on the fence.

There had been no difference in Sarah’s manner; and Alec was just as usual, but seeing much of Alec meant seeing more or less of Boyd, and Blue Bonnet, try as she might, could not like Boyd.

One bright spot, or rather three, the week had held for her; Mademoiselle had been able to take up her work again, and Mademoiselle had seemed to understand. She had asked no inconvenient questions, made no embarrassing references to the absent members.

For that matter, Miss Fellows had been mighty kind, too; when one came to think of it, all the grown-ups had behaved beautifully.

Nevertheless, it was a rather depressed Blue Bonnet who walked slowly up the broad street that Friday afternoon. She was homesick for the gay times, the old comradeship. The sight of those empty places in the classroom made her inexpressibly344 lonesome. There had been no Debby to signal messages to her right under Miss Fellows’ very nose, no Kitty to whisper provoking little speeches that simply had to be answered. That her deportment for the week had reached the high water mark gave small comfort; she would have willingly sacrificed any number of credit marks on the altar of good fellowship.

And next week it would probably be even worse.

In the meantime, what should she do with her afternoon? Alec had gone in town with his cousin; she might ride, but riding alone—from necessity—was horrid. Sarah’s patient old nag was only at Sarah’s disposal on Saturday afternoons.

“Grandmother,” Blue Bonnet asked, coming into the sitting-room, “may I have the phaeton?”

“Certainly, dear,” Mrs. Clyde glanced at the girl’s listless face a little anxiously. She, too, was glad the week was over; next week must be better.

“I might as well take Sarah driving. I don’t suppose Denham would trust me with both the horses.”

“Probably not.”

“And he’s sure to give me ‘Peter the Poke’!”

“Poor old Peter!” Grandmother laughed. “To think he should have lived to be spoken of in that fashion.”

“Sooner or later, we are apt to get what we deserve,” Miss Lucinda remarked. “Blue Bonnet,345 suppose you stop at Mrs. Morrow’s and find out when you are to go for your fittings?”

Blue Bonnet sighed. “It would save a heap of trouble, Aunt Lucinda, if we would just take a day off, and go in town and buy everything I need ready-made.”

“Perhaps, but saving trouble is not the chief end of man, my dear.”

“More than of most women, I reckon,” Blue Bonnet answered.

Miss Lucinda let that pass; she had let more than one thing pass the last week. “Don’t be late getting back,” she warned, as Blue Bonnet turned away. “Remember, Mr. and Mrs. Blake are coming to tea.”

“I’ll be on time,” Blue Bonnet promised.

Sarah looked both pleased and doubtful when Blue Bonnet, drawing up before the parsonage gate, called to her to get her hat and come on; but with her mother downing objections as fast as they were raised, there was nothing for it but to yield.

They went out along the turnpike, striking as brisk a pace as Peter would consent to,—which was not so brisk as to cause Sarah any very serious tremors,—turning off after a while into a winding country lane that had a pleasant, aimless air about it. Peter disapproved of that lane; he had a chronic objection to getting muddy and uncomfortable. If that headstrong young person at the other346 end of the reins had but consulted him first, he could have told her what a country lane was like at this season of the year.

But if it was muddy underfoot, it was delightful overhead, with the soft wind driving the fleeciest of white clouds across the bluest of Spring skies, and reminding Blue Bonnet of ships at sea. Gradually her face lost its troubled look, as she leaned back in the phaeton, her hat off, the little curls blown back from her forehead. Sarah was not a bad companion on a drive like this; Kitty would have fussed about going so slowly, but, after all, poor old Peter was doing his best.

She and Sarah were both inclined to be rather silent; school and club-meetings were both subjects to be avoided. Carita Judson proved a safe topic, Blue Bonnet had had a letter from her the other day; there was always the ranch.

Suddenly, Sarah found herself wishing that Blue Bonnet were not going back to it in June, she should miss her very much. It was too bad this school trouble had come up; perhaps now, Blue Bonnet would not want to return in the fall.

Sarah tried, not very successfully, to imagine what it would be like—doing just as one pleased.

“But,” her companion protested, as she voiced this thought, “I don’t!”

“You do—more than anyone I’ve ever known347 before. It’s queer, but it doesn’t seemed to have—spoiled you.”

Blue Bonnet laughed. “You are forgetting to make allowance for my naturally angelic disposition. I’m afraid Aunt Lucinda wouldn’t agree with you, though.”

“But you like it here?”

“I—did. You see, when one can’t do what one likes, one must like what one can do.”

“Y—yes,” Sarah agreed, wonderingly. “I never supposed you looked at things like that.”

“Another dream shattered?” Blue Bonnet laughed again. “Case in point; I’d like awfully to go on indefinitely along this jolly little lane, that doesn’t belong by right to Woodford at all—it’s so meandering and ambitionless—but instead, I’m going home.”

“It’s been a lovely ride,” Sarah answered; not so very long before she would have said—very pleasant.

It was not until she had left Sarah at her own gate that Blue Bonnet remembered her errand at the dressmaker’s.

Mrs. Morrow lived quite at the far end of the street, in a quaint, old-fashioned little house; altogether too pleasant, in Blue Bonnet’s opinion, to be the home of anyone who followed the trade of dressmaking, and gave people fittings.

The big tiger-cat, enjoying the evening on the348 doorstep, came down the path to meet Blue Bonnet, arching her back, and purring loudly; while in the doorway, Netty Morrow, Mrs. Morrow’s niece, was standing.

“My aunt’s been looking for you before this, Miss Blue Bonnet,” she said; “she’s gone out now—but you’re to come try on Monday afternoon without fail.”

“I did forget that last time, truly,” Blue Bonnet apologized.

Netty led the way into the sewing-room, picking up one of Blue Bonnet’s new skirts. “I should think you’d be feeling fine—having so many pretty things all at once.”

“But I don’t get them all at once! I wish dresses could grow from seeds!”

“Well of all the queer ideas!”

“Are you going out?” Blue Bonnet asked, as Netty took up her hat. “It’s lovely out.”

Netty pointed to several parcels lying on the table. “I have to take them home, Miss.”

“Could I leave them for you?”

The other looked surprised. But why not? It wouldn’t hurt Blue Bonnet to make herself a bit useful for once; they wouldn’t take her much out of the way, and it would leave Netty herself all the more time for her own new blouse.

“You are sure you don’t mind?” she asked.

“Of course I don’t,” Blue Bonnet answered.349 “We’d better put them into the phaeton box,” she added, as she and Netty and the parcels went down the box-bordered path together. She felt grateful to Netty for accepting her offer; it was good to be doing something for somebody, one didn’t feel so out in the cold.

“You’re quite sure you understand where they’re to go?” she heard Netty asking, and came back to things practical.

“Don’t you worry,” she laughed; “they’ll get there all right.”

“But you’ll have to do your best, Peter!” she warned, as they started, “or we’ll be late home.” And Peter, mindful of the nearness of the supper hour, did do his best.

“Blessed be back stairs!” Blue Bonnet told Solomon, as he scampered up ahead of her on her return home.

But if Blue Bonnet came down rather flushed and breathless, and not altogether on time, Mrs. Blake, arriving at that moment with her husband, was even more so. “I know we are late,” she apologized to Mrs. Clyde and Miss Lucinda, “but it was quite—unavoidable. I—I was detained—most unexpectedly—at the last moment.”

And in spite of Grandmother’s assurances that it did not signify in the least, Mrs. Blake continued to look flushed, and, it seemed to Blue Bonnet, disappointed.

350 The next morning, Miss Lucinda came in to where Blue Bonnet was practising. “Denham found this in the phaeton box just now. Do you know anything about it?” She held out a flat parcel.

Blue Bonnet stared at the limp, brown-paper parcel as if spellbound. “Know anything about it!” she had caught the parcel from her aunt’s hand and was out of the room by now. “It’s Mrs. Blake’s new silk waist!” came back from the hall.

Then the front door slammed.



I’m mighty glad it wasn’t something belonging to Mr. Blake,” Blue Bonnet rejoiced, hurrying bare-headed down the street to the parsonage; “I would have hated having to explain to him!”

She understood now why Mrs. Blake had looked so flushed and disappointed the evening before; probably, she had set her heart on having her new waist to wear.

“Oh, dear!” Blue Bonnet sighed; and she was so tragic in her request to see Mrs. Blake at once that Lydia, who opened the door, thought something dreadful must have happened at the Clyde place, and led the way directly to the kitchen, where her mother was kneading bread.

“You can’t imagine what I’ve come to tell you!” Blue Bonnet laid the brown-paper parcel on the table beside the big bread-pan. “Nor how sorry I am!”

“Bring Blue Bonnet a chair, Lydia,” Mrs. Blake said, looking at the parcel in surprise. “You will excuse me if I go on with what I am doing, my dear?”

352 “I’m afraid it is you who will not want to forgive me!” Blue Bonnet plunged into the full tide of confession, explanation, and apology; with the result that presently her listener—who had really been greatly disappointed at the non-appearance of the waist at the promised time,—new waists were rare events at the parsonage,—found herself called upon to play the part of comforter; Blue Bonnet’s distress of mind was so evident.

“But it does matter!” Blue Bonnet insisted. “It matters very much! I can’t think how I—” she broke off abruptly; through the one door, leading to the dining-room, she caught sight of Debby. Debby’s head was down on the table, her shoulders shaking convulsively.

As Blue Bonnet stopped speaking, she looked up. “I couldn’t help hearing; and—and it was so like you, Blue Bonnet Ashe! Oh, dear, I can’t help it!” Debby’s head went down again.

“D—don’t!” Blue Bonnet implored; it would be adding insult to injury for her to laugh, but if Debby didn’t stop—

“Suppose you go in the other room with Debby,” Mrs. Blake suggested; she knew all about the events of the past week; she was glad Debby had happened to be there.

And the next moment, Blue Bonnet and Debby found themselves sitting side by side on the shabby old sofa.

353 “Will you look at this!” Debby held up the rag doll she was stuffing for Trotty Blake. “I’ve done my best with the old thing, and she keeps getting lumpier and lumpier!”

It was Blue Bonnet who went off into a gale of laughter this time. “She looks like our Lisa, at home! And Lisa looks like a pillow with a string tied—not too tightly—about the middle.”

When Sarah came down she found the two chatting away as pleasantly as ever.

“Have you any bright pieces?” Blue Bonnet asked. “We’re going to dress Trotty a Mexican doll.”

“I’ll ask mother if we may have the piece-bag,” Lydia offered.

Before Blue Bonnet realized it, it was dinner time and Julia had begun to lay the table; she jumped up in dismay. “I only meant to stay a few moments! What will Aunt Lucinda say? I was right in the middle of practising.”

Visions of an undusted parlor, of Grandmother waiting patiently for her and her mending-basket, rose before her.

“It had to be in the middle of something, hadn’t it?” Debby laughed.

“But you are both to stay to dinner with us,” Mrs. Blake said, coming in; “I’m sending word by Lydia now.”

“Oh, I would love to do that!” Blue Bonnet354 exclaimed; it would be fun making part of a family, if only for a day.

“I wish I had five little sisters!” she told Sarah, sitting on the bed in the latter’s room. “It must be lovely, having someone to share your room with you.”

Sarah, conscious of certain unexpressed longings for a room all to herself,—Julia was so untidy,—only smiled by way of answer.

“How about the club this afternoon?” Debby asked, from the washstand. “Are we meeting here, or at Blue Bonnet’s?”

Blue Bonnet turned suddenly to look out of the window, while Sarah answered, hurriedly. “Let’s make it a walking meeting, it’s too nice to stay indoors. Father’s going out by the Doyles’ after dinner; I’ll ask him to tell Ruth and Susy to meet us at the cross-roads.”

“Kitty can’t go, she’s off with the doctor for the day,” Debby said; “it’s Amanda’s treat. I’ll run around there after dinner and remind her. Sarah, I never knew that the view from your back window was so absorbing.”

“Didn’t you?” Blue Bonnet asked. “I think back yards are more interesting than front ones. Sarah, I wish I had remembered to ask Lydia to bring my hat back with her.” There was a happy ring in Blue Bonnet’s voice; the “We are Seven’s” were to have their meeting; and perhaps if Kitty355 hadn’t gone with her father, she would have gone with them. Her week was not turning out so badly, after all.

She thoroughly enjoyed that far from quiet family dinner; helping Sarah with the dishes afterwards was fun too, so was helping clean up the younger children for the afternoon.

Then Debby called to them from downstairs that she and Amanda were tired of waiting, and presently the four were off through the garden and out the back way.

If Blue Bonnet had forgotten about her hat, Miss Lucinda had not; Lydia had reappeared with the hat and Solomon,—the latter self-invited. Solomon was dancing on ahead now, the happiest small dog in the township.

At the cross-roads, they found Ruth and Susy waiting. “We’ve been here the longest time!” Susy told them. And in the pleasure felt by all six at being together again, and out in the open, the troubles and misunderstandings of the past few days were ignored by common consent. Even Amanda found courage to come down from her fence, on the right side; and when she explained that the box she carried contained fresh fudge made that morning, thereby admitting that she had expected the club to meet as usual, it was felt that she had made the amende honorable; and not only that, but excellent fudge as well.

356 They had a long, rambling tramp, coming back a bit muddy and a good deal tired, to the cross-roads, where Ruth and Susy were to leave them. Just then Dr. Clark drove by, Kitty in the gig beside him.

“Good afternoon,” he called out, barely drawing rein. “Are you a party of walking delegates?” But Kitty, with one brief, comprehensive glance at the group in the road, sat looking straight before her.

Well!” Debby remarked, as the doctor drove on.

Amanda looked uncomfortable; there were times when living next door to Kitty had its disadvantages, and this was going to be one of them.

“It is to be hoped,” Debby went on, “that our young friend climbs down from her high horse before Monday morning.”

“We really must be going on,” Sarah said.

The rest of the walk was a silent one. Sarah and Blue Bonnet were the last to separate; as they stopped at the Clyde gate, Sarah said, a little hesitatingly, “I’m sorry—it happened, Blue Bonnet; but Kitty doesn’t mean all she does—or says; I daresay she’s sorry too, by now.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Blue Bonnet answered, turning to go in; then she came back. “That wasn’t true, it does matter! And—and you’ve been awfully good to me all this week, Sarah; I’ll never,357 never forget it!” Leaning over the gate, she gave Sarah a hasty good night kiss, and ran off up the walk.

Mrs. Clyde and Miss Lucinda were out making calls, Delia told her. “I hope,” she added, a laugh in her kind, Irish-gray eyes, “that you’ll be finding the parlor dusted to your liking, miss.”

Blue Bonnet laughed. “If Aunt Lucinda was suited, I am. Thank you so much, Delia.”

She was waiting on the veranda when the carriage drew up before the steps a few moments later. “I’m glad you’re not going to make a formal call here,” she told Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda; “and for once, I got home first.”

“You left first,” Miss Lucinda answered.

Blue Bonnet’s eyes danced. “But you see, I just had to get Mrs. Blake’s waist home; it was considerably overdue as it was.”

Grandmother sat down on one of the veranda benches. “What I don’t understand is how it came to be in your possession.”

Blue Bonnet came to sit at the other end of the bench. “I begin to think I was born to trouble; and my intentions—in this case, at least—were so good. Netty Morrow would have had ever so long a walk, and there was Peter and the phaeton. I got the other two home all right; I can’t understand how I came to miss that one. Mrs. Blake was awfully nice about it. I think she was simply358 born to be a minister’s wife, she makes such a beautiful one.”

“But Blue Bonnet,” Miss Lucinda was looking grave, “try and put yourself in Mrs. Blake’s place; how would you have liked being disappointed?”

“If I were Mrs. Blake, I suppose I wouldn’t have liked it, Aunt Lucinda. Though I don’t see but what she looked very nice; and she’s got the new one all fresh for the next being asked out to tea. We might ask her again right soon, and then she could wear it here.”

Miss Lucinda sighed.

“And anyhow, if it hadn’t happened that way, I shouldn’t have gone to Sarah’s like I did, and met Debby, and had such a nice day, every moment of it until—And Delia did my dusting, and I’ll finish practising and do my mending this evening.”

“Don’t you want to stop and take breath, dear?” Grandmother asked. “We are very glad you have had a pleasant day; though another time, it might be just as well not to leave in quite such a hurry. As for the evening, Alec expects you over there. There is the hint of dancing, in a very small and very early affair, Alec assured me.”

“How lovely!” Blue Bonnet’s eyes danced more than ever.

“And there is a letter for you on the sitting-room mantel,” Aunt Lucinda told her.

359 The letter was from Cousin Honoria Winthrop. They had hoped to have the pleasure of a short visit from their little Texas relative long before this, but various matters had combined to prevent their being able to invite her; however, they trusted that she would be able to come to them from Friday until Monday, of the following week.

“Will it be jolly, Solomon, or won’t it?” Blue Bonnet asked, slipping the letter back into its envelope. “Two whole days and two parts of days with the Boston relatives; it sounds a bit scaresome.”

Blue Bonnet and Grandmother were walking slowly up and down the veranda; Sunday was nearly over, Blue Bonnet was thinking, and the something which she had been hoping all day would happen had not happened. It had not seemed possible that Kitty would let this first day of a new week go by without making some effort towards a reconciliation. And she would have been so willing to meet her halfway, to forgive those unkind speeches and all the slights since, including that of yesterday afternoon—if only Kitty had asked her to.

Mr. Blake had preached on charity that morning; he had not been nearly so dull and prosy as usual; and Kitty had been there. How could Kitty feel it her Christian duty not to want to be friends?360 If only all the “We are Seven’s” could start afresh to-morrow morning, letting bygones be bygones.

Blue Bonnet looked wistfully off across the broad lawn, in all its Spring greenness, to the quiet street, lying bright and deserted in the afternoon sunlight. Woodford always seemed a little different on Sundays from other days; there seemed a sort of hush over everything. Just a moment before, Grandmother had quoted George Herbert’s line—

“‘Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,’”

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind.” Blue Bonnet wished the words would not keep running through her thoughts. She felt that she had suffered long, very long; and she certainly was willing to be “kind.”

“... seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked.” Perhaps she had been fairly easy to provoke, “... endureth all things.” Enduring things wasn’t her strong point, that was certain.

“Grandmother,” Blue Bonnet said, much as she had said it that August evening on this same veranda, “it is very uncomfortable—not being friends with people.”

“Then why not try to put an end to the discomfort, dear?”


“After all, there is something to be said on Kitty’s side, you know. Suppose someone whom361 you liked and trusted quite unexpectedly did something directly contrary to what you considered fair and loyal, wouldn’t you think you had a right to know the reason why?”

“But I would have told her, only she said—”

“I can easily imagine what she said, just as I can easily imagine how often since then she has wished that she had not said it.”

“Then why hasn’t she come and told me so?”

“I can imagine the answer to that too. But because Kitty is willing to let a little false pride stand in the way of friendship, is no reason that you do the same.”

Two or three more turns Blue Bonnet took, then she came to a sudden halt. “I reckon I should have told her why I couldn’t go with the class! I—I’ll go do it—right now.”

“Not at too quick a pace on Sunday afternoon, dear,” Grandmother warned, and Blue Bonnet tried to moderate her steps accordingly.

Then, just as she was turning Kitty’s corner, she came plump upon Kitty herself.

“I was coming to—” Blue Bonnet began, hastily.

“So was I—” Kitty cut in.

“To tell you why I didn’t—”

“To tell you that I know now why you didn’t—”

Then they both stopped to laugh, after which they362 started back up the street together, arm in arm, in the old way.

“I only hope that Mr. Hunt doesn’t make us promise!” Kitty said. “Blue Bonnet, when I think of the hateful things I said—”

“Please, let’s not think about them! You wouldn’t’ve, only—”

But Kitty was not to be shut off in that fashion. “The ‘rankin’ officer’ told Alec—she’s known all about Mr. Hunt’s putting you on your honor that time, and she’s been keeping her weather-eye open lately; Alec came and told me. Oh, it has been the longest, dreariest week! Yesterday, I made papa take me with him, on purpose to avoid the club meeting; and then, coming home, he—Were you ever lectured in a gig, Blue Bonnet?”

“No,” Blue Bonnet laughed.

“Nor out of one, I imagine. Then we met you girls, and you looked as if you had been having such a good time, and that made me crosser than ever.”

Blue Bonnet came home, the last shadow lifted; it was all right again with the “We are Seven’s,” and to-morrow those empty places in the schoolroom would be filled once more. And Alec knew now; she couldn’t help being glad of that.

She found him on the veranda with Grandmother. “Shake!” he said, holding out his hand. He smiled over at Mrs. Clyde. “She’s a very363 foolish girl, isn’t she?” he said; “and a mighty plucky one.”

“She looks to me like a very happy one,” Mrs. Clyde answered.

Blue Bonnet started for school at the usual time the next morning. Near the building she met Billy Slade. “See here,” he said, “why on earth didn’t you let on, and not let folks go thinking all sorts of nonsense?”

“They didn’t have to think nonsense, did they? Where’s Debby?”

“Gone on to the reception; she went early, so as to get a back seat.”

“Will it be very—?” Blue Bonnet asked, sympathetically.

“I can tell you better about that later on.” Billy turned towards the front entrance, leading up to Mr. Hunt’s office.

In the office, he found the rest of the fourteen waiting, and chiefly occupied with the question—Would Mr. Hunt keep them until after opening exercises, or would he allow them to join their class before school began?

“It’s worse than waiting at the dentist’s,” Ruth sighed.

“He’s coming now!” one of the boys called, softly, from his place near the door, and Mr. Hunt came in.

Fourteen pairs of eyes were lifted to his, more364 or less anxiously. But he was not very hard on them this morning. A few grave words of advice they had to listen to; to promise, each in turn, that there should be no more cutting of classes on their part. Then Mr. Hunt said that in regard to the Sargent, he was still undecided; it would depend largely upon the promptitude with which they made up the lessons for the past week.

“That means we can try, doesn’t it?” Hester said, as they were on their way to their classroom. “I’m glad I’ve kept up.”

“The old boy’s a trump!” one of the boys said. “I thought we were out of that for good.”

“Make up all those lessons!” Blue Bonnet sympathized, as Kitty told her what Mr. Hunt had said.

“It lets the ‘jolly good’ in for a lot, doesn’t it?” Kitty commented. “I’m glad it isn’t the ‘rankin’ officer’! Making lessons up with her wasn’t always a summer-day’s picnic!”

“I think Miss Rankin was ever so nice—generally.”

“She was—to you!” Kitty slipped into her seat. “My, it’s good to be back!”

Before the end of the day was reached, the gates of Coventry had closed behind Blue Bonnet.

“One wouldn’t exactly suppose you hated school now!” Alec remarked, overtaking her on the way home. “It had begun to look as though you would never get rid of your body-guard.”

365 “I don’t hate it—now.” It occurred to Blue Bonnet that Alec was looking—not precisely tired, but as if things were a bit twisted. “How are you getting on with your paper?” she asked.

“I have all my notes ready. It ought not to take very long to write it.”

“Is Boyd trying?”

“I don’t know. He hasn’t said.”

“I’m going to Boston on Friday, to stay until Monday morning; it’ll be the first time I’ve been away over night since I came to Woodford.”

“To stay with the Boston relatives?”

Blue Bonnet nodded. “I wonder will they be very—Bostony.”

“They won’t be anything else; but they might be worse. Suppose we have a walk in honor of the great event? Just by our twosomes.”

“You wouldn’t rather ride?”

“Boyd’s bespoken Victor.”

And it occurred to Blue Bonnet that Boyd was getting more good out of Victor these Spring afternoons than Alec was. “He rides Victor too hard,” she said; “I’d just like to get Uncle Joe Terry after him—he would tell him a few things.”

“He rides a good many things too hard,” Alec said. “Will you be long?”

“Only long enough to leave my books and report to the commanding officer,” Blue Bonnet answered.

366 “And what will the club do without you on Saturday?” Alec asked, as they set out.

“Just that—I reckon.”

There was considerable protest among the six, when it was known that their president intended leaving them for so long; they flatly refused to hold a meeting without her. “It wouldn’t be any fun!” Debby declared.

They were down at the station in a body to see her off; very much as if she were going on a real journey. “Which is what she will be doing before long,” Susy said, watching the train draw out; “so we’d better make the most of her while she’s here.”

“Like last week?” Sarah asked, with such unusual spirit that the others stared at her in astonishment.

“Good for you, Sallykins!” Kitty commented. “You’re coming on!”

Blue Bonnet, seated beside Aunt Lucinda, and rejoicing as she always did in the swift sense of motion, was thinking herself that girls were queer; last week, they would hardly speak to her; this week, they couldn’t be friendly enough.

“I’ll have to take an early train Monday morning, won’t I?” she said, turning to her aunt.

“The 7.45 from town.”

“I hope I don’t oversleep!”

“Your Cousin Honoria will not let you lose your train, my dear.”

367 “I wish you were going to stay too,” Blue Bonnet said. After all, the Boston cousins were little more than strangers to her, and very elderly.

“You are not afraid of being homesick?” But Miss Lucinda looked pleased.

“I believe I am.” And when, later, the cab drew up before the rather somber-looking old house on Beacon Street, Blue Bonnet was quite sure of it.

But in spite of those first misgivings, Blue Bonnet thoroughly enjoyed her visit to her elderly relatives; they were so anxious that she should be happy while she was with them that that in itself went far towards counteracting that first sense of strangeness.

“And what should you like to do this morning, Señorita?” Cousin Tracy asked, at breakfast on Saturday morning; the evening before had been devoted to what Cousin Honoria called “getting acquainted.”

“I should love,”—Blue Bonnet looked from one to another of the three with that quick smile of hers, which seemed taking for granted perfect agreement with her wishes,—“I should just love to go all about Boston in one of those big sight-seeing motors.”

There was a moment’s silence; it seemed to Miss Augusta that the very portraits on the wall looked horrified.

368 “Uncle Cliff meant to take me when he was on last winter,” Blue Bonnet explained in blissful unconsciousness, “but we didn’t get ’round to it.”

Miss Honoria and Miss Augusta looked at their brother; as the man of the family, it was his place to deal with such an unlooked-for emergency.

“We will go, by all means,” Cousin Tracy answered; he abhorred motor cars, and now he was called upon to spend his morning riding about Boston in a public one! Young people nowadays had the most extraordinary ideas.

“Perhaps your aunts would like to join us,” he suggested.

But the sisters, it appeared, had various duties on hand, which would prevent their going pleasuring that morning.

Strangely enough, Mr. Winthrop really enjoyed his morning. Blue Bonnet’s interest in everything was refreshing, her point of view, her own. On the whole, she was pleased to approve of his city, as a city.

“I’ve learned a lot of history,” she announced at the luncheon table. “It was ever so interesting really seeing Bunker Hill! But what queer little narrow streets you have in ever so many places! I suppose, when they first laid Boston out, they didn’t realize how much was going to happen here. Cousin Tracy’s going to take me to the Library this afternoon; I’ve been there before, but I reckon369 one could go there every time one came to Boston. Take it all around, Boston is considerable of a town, isn’t it?”

“Boston considerable of a—” Miss Augusta repeated, helplessly. She glanced at her brother, but Mr. Winthrop did not look in the least dismayed; on the contrary, he appeared to be enjoying himself exceedingly.

The afternoon was given to the Library, with, later, a walk on the Common. In the evening, Cousin Honoria and Cousin Augusta took their young guest to a concert. Blue Bonnet went to bed feeling that she had been quite dissipated.

The next day was a truly April day; showery enough by afternoon to keep people indoors,—anyone, that is, who happened to be visiting the Boston relatives,—but with sweet, damp odors coming from the Common in to Blue Bonnet through her open window, as she sat writing to Uncle Cliff, and thinking a little longingly of the broad veranda at Woodford, the big, pleasant garden, fast putting on its Spring dress. How could people be content to live their lives out in cities?

Cousin Honoria and Cousin Augusta were taking the daily nap that only a family crisis had power to prevent; Cousin Tracy was in the library when Blue Bonnet came down.

“I thought maybe you wouldn’t mind showing370 me your collections?” she asked. “And don’t you think we might get a walk later? I think being out in the rain is fun.”

“I wonder if I did at sixteen?” Cousin Tracy answered, laying down his book, and going to open the doors of the tall cabinets where he kept his collections of rare coins and medals.

The medals interested Blue Bonnet more than the coins; they had been won by someone; each in itself represented some deed of daring, some act of courage. “Every one has its own story, hasn’t it?” she said.

“Yes,” Mr. Winthrop replied, “with the same theme as a foundation.”

“I wish you could tell me some of them.”

“I wish I could tell them to myself. And on the other side, think how many stories there are—to which there are no medals attached.”

“You mean?”

Mr. Winthrop sat down in the big chair opposite. The rain had stopped, and through the wide bow-window came a sudden flash of sunshine, lighting up the sober room, and turning the bronze medal in Blue Bonnet’s hand to gold. “You know the story of the Alamo?” he said.

“I could not be a Texas girl and not know it,” Blue Bonnet answered,—she could hardly remember when her father had first told it to her.

There is a story to stir the hearts of men for371 all time! I should like an ‘Alamo medal’ to put among these others.”

“And they must have had them, if—I see now what you meant, Cousin Tracy.”

“Did you know that among those men was one whose father had been a Woodford man? A distant connection of the family, at that?”

Blue Bonnet shook her head. “I never knew that.”

“Woodford should be proud of him. Not a bad subject for a Sargent, eh?”

It seemed to Blue Bonnet, that if all roads led to Rome, most subjects nowadays led up, sooner or later, to the Sargent. “Then you know about the Sargent competition?” she asked.

“My dear Señorita, could one have relatives in Woodford, and not know of it?”

“And you feel that way about it, too? Oh, I am glad!”

Mr. Winthrop smiled slightly. “I have sometimes thought that if I lived in Woodford, I might be tempted to feel that way about it.”

Blue Bonnet smiled across at him in perfect understanding. “I’m not going to try, you know.”

“Ah!” Then Cousin Tracy’s face sobered; Lucinda would not at all approve of the turn the conversation was taking.

“Isn’t that a mistake?” he asked. “Will not372 your grandmother and aunt be disappointed if you do not try?”

“That’s the worst of it,” Blue Bonnet admitted. “Somehow, not doing the things that perhaps one ought to do seems to make one more uncomfortable here than it used to at home on the ranch.”

“It looks as though you were developing a New England conscience. An exceedingly troublesome possession to have around—at times, but, once acquired, extremely difficult to get rid of.”

“I believe you,” Blue Bonnet answered, ruefully.

She was sure of it, as she lay awake that night in the big bed in the spare room, listening to the unaccustomed city noises, and trying not to listen to the thoughts running so persistently through her mind. How disappointed Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda would be at her not trying, how pleased if she did; how proud Uncle Cliff would be, if she won a prize. And like an undercurrent through it all, her father’s story of the Alamo. How odd that one of those men should have been from a Woodford family! A connection of the family!

“I reckon I’ll just have to do it!” she sighed at last.

She did not oversleep the next morning; when the maid tapped at her door, she found Blue Bonnet up and dressed.

“I’ve had a beautiful time!” Blue Bonnet told373 the sisters, as she and Cousin Tracy were starting for the depot.

“I hope Cousin Elizabeth will lend you to us again,” Cousin Honoria said, and Cousin Augusta added that it was wonderful how a young person brightened up a house.



To go into a thing half-heartedly was not Blue Bonnet’s fashion; before she was half-way to Woodford she was deep in plans for her paper. It should not be hard, just to tell the story of The Alamo, as her father used to tell it to her. She must find out about that Woodford man, but there were any amount of old record books at the Woodford Library; Alec had shown them to her one afternoon,—she had thought them very dull-looking.

No one else would have thought of this subject; and she would say nothing about it to anyone—not even at home—until her paper was finished. Then Grandmother should be allowed to see it before it was handed in.

It was mighty good of her and Aunt Lucinda not to have bothered her about it; perhaps—Blue Bonnet straightened herself at the thought—they had not considered it worth while,—had been sure that in spite of her protestations she would come around in the end.

“They came near being disappointed,” she said to herself; “if Cousin Tracy hadn’t given me such a good subject, I shouldn’t be going to try.”

375 Alec was waiting when the train drew into the Woodford station; “I thought Bruce and the cart would make better time than Peter and the phaeton,” he explained. “You don’t want to start the week being late to school, I suppose? So they did get you off in time?”

“They didn’t have to ‘get’ me; I met all their efforts more than half-way. I’ve had a beautiful time—and I hope Woodford’s missed me a little bit?”

“Some of it has. Mind you don’t go and do it again.”

“I may not get the opportunity.”

Alec was not the only one glad to see her; as for Solomon, he was all over her, before she was well out of the cart. There was only time to kiss Grandmother and Aunt Lucinda, before snatching up her school-books.

“Well!” Kitty demanded, waiting for her at the parsonage gate with Sarah; “I hope you’re glad to get back.”

“Even if I were not, I hope I am too polite to say so,” Blue Bonnet laughed, falling into step. Going to and coming from school was fun; it was the staying there that was apt to prove irksome.

She did not go directly home from school that afternoon; instead, she turned off in the direction of the Library, standing well back from the street in its own square of green. It had been easy to376 put Sarah and Amanda off; the rest of the club were busy “making up” these afternoons. It seemed to Blue Bonnet, that, on the whole, it was Miss Fellows who was paying the penalty for the fourteen’s act of insubordination.

Once at the Library, Blue Bonnet hurried to the little room at one side, devoted to the books concerning local history. There was no one else there, though the reading-room was filling fast with pupils on Sargent thoughts intent. Standing before the rows of musty-looking old volumes, Blue Bonnet gave an impatient thought to the originator of so much trouble. It was positively wicked to waste such a glorious Spring afternoon indoors. Perhaps, if she hurried there would still be time for a ride.

Blue Bonnet found that it was not going to be as easy to keep her secret as she had thought, neither at home nor at school. Some of the fourteen had already been granted the longed-for permission, and on the big board up at the front of the assembly-room, the list of papers turned in—including titles and names of competitors—was lengthening daily.

“I think,” Blue Bonnet confided one afternoon to Chula, as they started briskly off down the drive, “that I’ll begin to write mine on Saturday morning; I’ve got all the dates and details about ready.”

At the sound of quick steps behind her, she looked around. “Two is company, you know,” Boyd said,377 riding up beside her; “I hope you are in a mood for company—present company, at that.”

“Then you don’t call a horse and dog company?”

“Do you?”

“Certainly, and very good company.” Blue Bonnet leaned forward to pat Victor; they had become good friends since that ride together last October. “You’ve been riding Victor too hard—again,” she added, with sudden severity.

“Victor has been spoiled ridiculously. He and I have been having a bit of an argument.”

Blue Bonnet’s eyes flashed; “He is not spoiled; but he is used to his owner.”

“He will get used to me—after a while; he’s been learning a thing or two lately.”

By way of answer, Blue Bonnet wheeled Chula around towards home. She knew now why she had not liked Boyd Trent; underneath that smiling, easy politeness were selfishness and cruelty.

Boyd turned too; she was a queer girl, but she was interesting,—which was more than could be said for some of her friends,—and she rode well. “Are you always so extremely sociable?” he asked.

Blue Bonnet flushed; Aunt Lucinda would say that she had been showing her dislike too plainly. “I was thinking of—something,” she said; “I suppose you are looking forward to summer?” After all, he was even more of a newcomer in378 Woodford than she was, and he hadn’t half as many friends; even if one were horrid, one might have feelings like other people.

“Well, rather!” Boyd laughed; “I’ve seen livelier spots.”

“Don’t you like it at the academy?”

“Slow like all the rest of the place.” He pulled out a note-book; “I’ll show you some snap-shots of my school at home.”

Blue Bonnet brought Chula nearer; the snap-shots though small were clear, and the bits of school-life they gave interested her. She decided that she would like a camera; she would like some Woodford views to take back to the ranch.

“Did you take these?” she asked.

“Yes,” Boyd answered. “I’ll overhaul the camera, and we’ll go picture-hunting some Saturday morning.” He was returning the views to his note-book, and, as he spoke, some papers fell from it to the ground.

“One would think you were taking notes for a book—” Blue Bonnet began, then she stopped. They were notes, and they were all in Alec’s handwriting.

Boyd had slipped down from his horse, and was gathering the slips of paper up hurriedly; he looked confused, Blue Bonnet thought.

The little incident came back to her the next morning, as Kitty drew her to a standstill before379 the bulletin board in the assembly-room. “Three more names,” Kitty commented; “they’re coming in fast. Why, there’s Boyd Trent’s. I didn’t know he meant to try; it not being the regulation thing, apparently, for outsiders to do.”

Blue Bonnet let the little dig pass; she was bending to read the title of Boyd’s paper—“The After Stories of Some Sargent Winners.” Suddenly, Blue Bonnet saw again the little pile of papers lying in the dusty road, and Boyd’s face as he bent to pick them up.

“What’s the matter?” Kitty asked; “Are you beginning to repent? It’s not too late even yet! Billy’s still on the tenterhooks,—I think Mr. Hunt might temper judgment with mercy a little more quickly,—and if there’s time for Billy Slade to get up a paper, there’s time enough for you. Nothing happening, you’ll be reading Katherine Clark’s name there before many days.”

“Come on!” Blue Bonnet said. “No, I’m not beginning to repent; I’ve always understood that it was a very uncomfortable process to go through with.” Her thoughts were in a whirl. Had Boyd really taken Alec’s—She couldn’t think that.

She thought about it all during opening exercises; also, all through the Latin recitation afterwards, with the result that she failed twice on questions that she knew quite as well as the girl next her who answered them so glibly.

380 “So like the dear old days!” Kitty murmured provokingly; and Blue Bonnet decided to put the matter out of her thoughts until after school. Just what she intended to do then, was not clear to her; she could hardly go to Boyd and accuse him of—that.

She wouldn’t ride that afternoon; Boyd would probably have Victor—she wished General Trent knew how seldom Alec had the use of his own horse nowadays; she and Alec would go for a walk, and—

“Elizabeth!” Miss Fellows said, “I am afraid that you are not attending to the matter in hand.”

“But I’m going to, really and truly!” Blue Bonnet promised, with an earnestness not all for Miss Fellows. “Mind you do,” she told herself, “or there won’t be any time for walking this afternoon.”

“No, I can’t go home with you!” she assured Kitty after school. “I can’t go home with any of you girls! Yes, there is something on, Little Miss Why; but I am not going to tell you what it is.”

Kitty looked impatient; “You’re the greatest girl for wrapping yourself up in mysteries!”

“I’m not!” Blue Bonnet answered; “but little girls mustn’t ask impertinent questions; good-bye, I’ll see you to-morrow morning.”

“Or before—perhaps,” Kitty retorted. “As I take the notion.”

381 Blue Bonnet found Alec reading on the side piazza; he was looking troubled about something, she told herself. “If you don’t mind, I would like to follow our brook this afternoon,” she said.

“And I am to follow you?”

“It would be more sociable if we kept together.”

They went out across the back meadow, the dogs leaping and barking on ahead, just as they had that August afternoon. A good deal had happened in the eight months since, Blue Bonnet thought; it did not seem as if any other eight months could ever bring so many new experiences; she felt considerably more than eight months older.

“What are you looking so sober over?” Alec asked.

“A great many things.”

They had reached the brook, and turning they followed it back along the way it had come until the woods were reached; here they went more slowly. The April woods were too lovely to be hurried through, Blue Bonnet thought, with the light falling soft and shimmering through the young green of the trees, and the Spring beauties making a delicate border for the brook, which laughed and splashed over the stones, as if it knew that at last the long winter were gone for good.

“Let’s go up to our old picnic place,” Blue Bonnet suggested, and they came at last to the open space where they had lunched that afternoon, with,382 it would seem, the very same squirrel eying them askance from the upper bough of a tall tree.

“Isn’t it nice here!” Blue Bonnet leaned back against the moss-covered trunk of an old tree. “Why couldn’t we come out here for school! It would be much more sensible!”

“From your point of view!”

Blue Bonnet passed a hand lovingly over the pink and white beauties which seemed to be smiling up at her. “And isn’t it good that at last all the fourteen can try for the Sargent? Billy got his discharge papers this noon.”

“I thought Mr. Hunt would prove amenable.”

“How soon do you send your paper in?” Blue Bonnet was picking a knot of the flowers for her blouse and did not look up; she hoped her question sounded sufficiently casual.

“I—oh, I’ve decided to follow your example.”

“You mean you’ve given up trying?”

“Sounds that way, doesn’t it?” Alec was looking straight ahead of him; there was a little pucker between his brows.

Blue Bonnet seemed for the moment to be giving her attention to her flowers. It was just as she had expected; by some means, evidently not fair ones, Boyd must have secured Alec’s notes and used them. Of course she had not liked him—he was selfish and cruel and mean! And she would have to pretend not to know, unless Alec made some sign, which he would not—she wasn’t good at pretending.


383 “But I thought,” she said, “that it was a girl’s privilege to change her mind?”

“Mayn’t we borrow one of your privileges occasionally? You borrow some of ours. Besides, I won a prize last year—suppose I should do it again, wouldn’t too much glory be bad for a fellow?”

“Aunt Lucinda won it three times running when she was a girl.”

“Yes, but she was—Miss Lucinda! Come to think of it, my lady, you are not precisely in a position to lecture me for not trying.”

“But I—” Blue Bonnet caught herself up; “I don’t want to lecture anyone—to-day,” she ended, and leaning back again she looked thoughtfully up at the soft stretch of blue showing between the tree tops.

She wished Alec would up and fight Boyd on his own ground! But then, Boyd had stolen his ammunition. Good subjects for the Sargent were not lying around waiting to be picked up; no wonder, when one remembered all the papers that had been written since the originating of the competition.

Blue Bonnet caught her breath; suppose—

But he would not take her subject. Very well, he would have to be managed. She could not help feeling a very real sense of regret. She had meant384 to begin writing her paper to-morrow morning; she had become honestly interested in the doing of it, and she was looking forward to Grandmother’s and Aunt Lucinda’s surprise and pleasure when she told them. As for the girls—

Fortunately, she had said nothing about it. There would not be time to hunt up another subject; besides, she didn’t want any other, she knew how Alec felt about that; still, she was offering him a really new idea. It was the manner of offering it that was troubling her now.

“We aren’t very talkative, are we?” she said.

“We don’t seem to be,” Alec agreed.

“Shall I tell you about Cousin Tracy’s medals? He has a fine collection;” and presently she had him interested in the short accounts Mr. Winthrop had given her, introducing—much as he had done—the subject of the Alamo, and the fact that the father of one of its heroes had been a Woodford man.

“I never knew that,” Alec said.

“I’m glad, somehow,—so long as I belong to both places,—that Woodford can claim a share in the Alamo.” And Blue Bonnet went on to tell the story as her father used to tell it to her; seeing, and making Alec see the tragic drama enacted there in that little church near San Antonio during those memorable three weeks; the struggle, the heroic courage, the no less heroic endurance of the men,385 who, like the Old Guard, could die, but would not surrender.

“I don’t wonder your Texans took ‘Remember the Alamo’ for their war-cry afterwards!” Alec said. There was an eager light in the boy’s gray eyes; he had not come of a race of soldiers for nothing.

He was not much more talkative going home than he had been coming, but from a different reason, Blue Bonnet felt sure; and she lingered a moment on the porch, watching him cross the lawn after saying good night. “Will he, or won’t he, Solomon?” she asked.

As she came up the drive the next afternoon, after her ride with the club, Alec came to meet her. “See here,” he said, stroking the head Chula stretched towards him, “I’ve been thinking—”

“Did it come hard?” Blue Bonnet laughed.

“I’ll settle that score later! We’ll stick to business now, if you please. My New England thrift makes me hate to see good material going to waste.”

“He will do it!” Blue Bonnet told herself. “Then why not prevent it?” she asked.

“Don’t you feel an inner call to turn that Alamo business into a Sargent?”

Blue Bonnet stroked Chula’s mane thoughtfully; “No,” she answered, “I don’t think I do;” and to herself, she added, that she didn’t—now.

386 “I’ve a notion that if you don’t do something of the sort your Woodford relatives will be a bit disappointed.”

“They might be more disappointed if I did.”

“Then you are quite sure?”


“In that case—it’s such splendid material, I really don’t see how you have strength to let it alone—I believe I’ll change my mind a second time.”

“You may; only don’t get into the habit—and change it again,” Blue Bonnet warned.

“I won’t,” Alec promised; “I’m going straight to work. I’m no end obliged to you for telling that story; it’s the best subject ever.”

Spring came early that year, and no one rejoiced more in its coming than Blue Bonnet. Now that the winter was over, she began to realize how long it had seemed; and, as the days went by, Miss Fellows began to realize with equal vividness something of what Miss Rankin had gone through with last fall.

There was no wilful breaking of rules, Blue Bonnet had not forgotten her promise, but there was much inward rebellion and outward struggle, resulting in more or less inattention during school hours. Blue Bonnet’s eyes would wander again and again to the window, her thoughts drifting even387 further afield. The remembrance of what the ranch must be like now grew daily more insistent.

The long rides and walks after school, the hunts for wild flowers, the tennis which, with the coming of Spring, the Woodford young people had promptly instituted, helped a good deal.

By the fifteenth of May, all of the papers for the Sargent had to be in.

“And to-morrow is the fifteenth!” Blue Bonnet rejoiced one afternoon. “Now, perhaps, the old thing can drop!”

“Ah, but the waiting will begin now,” Ruth said.

“Can’t you wait in silence?”

“You’re a very disrespectful girl!” Debby said severely.

Blue Bonnet smiled agreeingly; “I have learned a lot of things since I came East, haven’t I?”

The “We are Seven’s” were sitting under the trees in Kitty’s front yard, resting after a long walk. “I’m going to have a birthday next Saturday week,” Amanda announced.

“Is there to be a celebration?” Kitty inquired.

Amanda nodded importantly.

“Of course there is, little Miss Why!” Debby said. “There’s some use in having a birthday in Woodford. If you were wise, Blue Bonnet, you’d arrange to have yours while you were here—there would be something doing then.”

“In August I’ll be on the ranch—and there’ll388 be something doing there. There’s some good in having a birthday on the Blue Bonnet Ranch.”

“Aunt Huldah”—Amanda looked still more important—“says I may bring a party out there for supper and—”

Kitty came nearer; “‘Codlin’s your friend!’ And look here,” she turned to the others, “we’ll appoint a body-guard right now to see that Blue Bonnet doesn’t pay any visits to the Poor Farm between now and a week from Saturday.”

“I’ve never been there but that once!” Blue Bonnet protested.

“That’s not saying you wouldn’t go again if the fancy seized you,” Kitty rejoined.

“I wish you would listen,” Amanda objected; “I thought I’d ask you girls—”

“If you didn’t some of us would be asking the reason why,” Debby interposed.

“And the boys who were at the ‘skating-rink party’ that day. I couldn’t take any larger party than that.”

“Making it Gentlemen’s Day?” Blue Bonnet asked.

“Uncle Dave’s just finished building a new barn,” Amanda went on.

Kitty clapped her hands—“And we’re to dance in it after supper! Oh, what fun!”

“It’ll be moonlight coming home, I looked it up389 in the almanac.” Amanda leaned back with a sigh of satisfaction.

“Amanda Parker, you’re the sensiblest girl!” Kitty declared. “Now I don’t believe Blue Bonnet or I would ever have thought of providing a full moon too. Sarah might’ve.”

Blue Bonnet carried her good news home. “And I may go this time?” she said. “I won’t ask anybody to tea for that night. I’d just love to see a real farm. I suppose it’s what Uncle Joe would call a ‘juvenile ranch.’ Twelve days is going to be an awful long while to wait.”

“A what, my dear?” Aunt Lucinda suggested.

“Very—spelled like—awful,” Blue Bonnet laughed.

“The days are going pretty fast the past weeks,” Grandmother said, thinking sadly that already May was half gone and that June would soon be here; even now, Mr. Ashe was writing of coming East for Blue Bonnet. The summer seemed to stretch ahead, unusually long and quiet; and who knew what the fall would bring forth? Blue Bonnet had not said as much lately about coming back; and once Mr. Ashe had her safely on the ranch, would he be willing to part with her again?

Grandmother roused herself; at least, Blue Bonnet had not gone yet. Looking up, she found Blue Bonnet watching her rather soberly; and presently,390 when supper was over, the latter ran hastily upstairs to her own room.

“I’ve the best plan ever, Solomon!” she confided to him, as he danced on before her. Five minutes later, she was down again. “I’m going to the office to mail a letter,” she announced from the sitting-room doorway; “I won’t be gone long.”

Those twelve days were not so long in passing. That all of the invitations should have been promptly accepted was only to be expected.

“It’s about the only thorough-going jollification we’ll have time for between now and closing of school,” Debby told Blue Bonnet; “the exams will be beginning soon.”

“And we’ll have all last winter’s agony to go through with again?”

“That depends upon how easily you agonize.”

“I’m not quite so scared as I was then,” Blue Bonnet said; “I wonder if one would ever get where an exam didn’t really bother one at all?”

“I’m not wasting my time over any such nonsense,” Kitty declared; “I’m wondering why the wagon doesn’t come.”

The party were waiting on the Parker front steps for the big hay wagon from the farm; the girls, in their fresh summer dresses, making a bright spot of color against the green background of the vine covering the piazza.

“Here it comes!” one of the boys said.

391 Billy had provided himself with a horn, a battered old affair which had seen much service but was still capable of more, as Billy proceeded to prove, waking the echoes of the quiet old street.

“Billy!” Mrs. Parker implored, coming out, “you’re not going to take that thing?”

“I am surprised at you!” Billy eyed her reproachfully. “Don’t I always take it?”

“We won’t let him blow it too often,” Alec promised; “if he tries to, we’ll drop him and it overboard.”

“Isn’t living in a village ever and ever so much more fun than living on a ranch?” Kitty demanded of Blue Bonnet as the wagon started.

“Tell her ‘no,’” Alec said.

“Tell her comparisons are odious,” another of the boys suggested.

“Tell me to come and see,” Billy urged.

And suddenly Blue Bonnet found herself wishing that it were possible to take all the “We are Seven’s” and some of their friends back to Texas with her. Would they find the life there as strange and as confusing as she had found it here? At least, there would be no school; just long happy care-free days to be spent out-of-doors. She would like Uncle Joe Terry to know Kitty—she could see the twinkle in his shrewd kindly eyes as he looked down into the freckled, piquant little face; she would like him to know Sarah, too, and all the392 girls, and Alec. And she would like them all to know Uncle Joe. So long as there were no fences making choice of side imperative, even Amanda was good fun; besides, she was a club member.

But of course, it was not to be thought of.

“If I were the ‘rankin’ officer,’” Kitty announced, “I should be calling you to attention just about now, Blue Bonnet Ashe. You are the unhearingest girl that ever was!”

“But you’re not, you know,” Blue Bonnet answered; “and I was thinking of something.”

“You mostly are—when you shouldn’t be; and mostly aren’t when you should be,” Kitty observed.

“The ‘rankin’ officer’ is a part of the past, so far as we are concerned,” Debby said comfortably.

“And so will the ‘jolly good’ be soon,” Billy said.

“And will you tell me,” Kitty looked from one to another, as if the question were a momentous one, “what we are going to do next term with a teacher named Kent!”

“You haven’t got her yet,” one of the boys reminded her. “‘There’s many a slip ’twixt the cup and the lip.’”

“‘Spell it with a we, my lord, spell it with a we,’” Alec quoted.

“And have her Vent it all on us?” Ruth laughed.

“Somebody kindly head Sarah off! She’s getting ready to remonstrate!” Kitty added.

393 “I see the new barn!” Susy called; “I guess you’re glad we’re nearly there.” She looked up at Mrs. Parker, in the seat of honor beside the driver.

“I’ve chaperoned you young people before,” Mrs. Parker answered,—a remark, which, as Alec said, could be construed in more than one way.

“Choose your partners,” Billy called; “it’ll save time afterwards.”

They were within sight of the low, stone farmhouse by now; from the front porch, Amanda’s Aunt Huldah was waving a welcome to them.

Boyd gave Billy a sudden shove into the road, slipping into his place beside Blue Bonnet. “May I have the first dance?” he asked.

“It’s promised,” she answered; Alec had seen to that the night before.

“Well, I like that!” Billy stood staring after the wagon. “A nice way to treat a fellow.”

“He thought you needed exercise, Billy,” Kitty called.

“Then, the second?” Boyd asked; she had seemed to avoid him whenever possible lately,—he half wanted to find out why; and outside of that, she was the best dancer there.

The wagon was stopping, but Blue Bonnet did not appear to have noticed; she was looking off down the road they had come by, a doubtful expression in her blue eyes; then she turned, meeting394 Boyd’s glance fully, “I’ll give you the next to the last.”

“The next to the last!” She was a queer girl.

“Come on, Blue Bonnet!” Amanda called; “I want to introduce you to Aunt Huldah—you and Boyd too.”

“I’m coming!” Blue Bonnet did not seem to see the helping hand Boyd held out.

As she went up the steps with the other girls, he stood a moment looking after her. He was not so sure now that he did want to find out why she had—she had some nonsense in her mind. It couldn’t be about—

With a little shake of the shoulders, Boyd followed the rest.



Boyd was in two minds about claiming that dance—it wouldn’t do the little Texan any harm to be called down; but when the time came, he presented himself before Blue Bonnet, outwardly as smiling as usual.

“Would you mind if we sat it out?” she asked.

Boyd looked his surprise; she had not been sitting out any of the other dances, and again that uneasy feeling came over him. “As you like, of course,” he answered, leading the way to the old bench under a big apple tree just outside.

“I wanted to tell you,” Blue Bonnet began at once,—“I’ve thought it all over, and it doesn’t seem fair not to tell you—that I know about—”

Boyd’s quick glance of astonishment, even though she felt it to be half assumed, made it hard to go on.

“About your Sargent paper,” she added determinedly.

“Is that to be wondered at? It is down on the board with the rest.”

“I think you know what I mean. You know that those notes you dropped the other day belonged to Alec.”

396 “Upon my word, that is—”

“And that the subject you used was really the one he was using.”

“Aren’t you taking a good deal for granted?” Boyd broke in; she should not have it all her own way.

“You know what I say is so,” Blue Bonnet insisted. “Those were Alec’s notes, the subject was his, and all at once he gave up sending in a paper. It’s very plain.”

“It has not occurred to you that Alec might have given me those notes?”

“Then, in that case, you would not have looked so—ashamed, while you were picking them up.”

Boyd sprang to his feet, his face crimson. “I don’t wonder they sent you East to be taught—manners!”

It was Blue Bonnet’s turn to crimson, but she held back the retort trembling at the edge of her tongue; she had come out there to tell Boyd Trent what she knew, and she had told him. It was inconceivable that a Trent—the General’s grandson, and Alec’s cousin—should have done this thing.

“I only wish you were a boy!” Boyd said.

“I’d like well to be—for a few moments,” Blue Bonnet answered, turning away.

Boyd did not follow her; instead he wandered off to the lower end of the yard, out of sight of the lantern-lighted barn, but not out of hearing of the397 fiddle played by Amanda’s Uncle Dave. Leaning against the old stone wall, the boy stared miserably out over the broad moonlit meadow.

The worst of it was that he did not know what Blue Bonnet would do now. As things were, it would be just his luck for that paper to take a prize. It ought to, considering how carefully Alec had prepared those notes; there had been very little left for him to do, beyond putting them together. He wouldn’t have bothered about writing a paper at all—what did he care for Woodford customs?—except that his grandfather had seemed to expect it, and he wanted to keep on the right side of his grandfather—for various reasons. Alec shouldn’t have left the notes lying around, he knew he had been hunting for a subject; and anyhow, they were only notes—taken from books; he wouldn’t have thought of taking a real paper. There would have been plenty of time for Alec to get up another one; it was the sort of thing he liked doing. If only Blue Bonnet had not—Alec could have been depended on not to tell; he had not referred to the matter since—Boyd moved impatiently; that brief interview between his cousin and himself was one of the things he preferred to forget.

It was all a horrid mess whatever way you looked at it; he would be mighty glad when school closed; next fall he should be going back to his own school; he never wanted to see Woodford again.

398 In the meantime, he supposed that Amanda girl was wondering where her partner for this last dance was? She would have to wonder, that was all.

They were finishing the dance as he went back to the barn. Amanda received his murmured apology about a sudden headache in indignant silence; she didn’t believe he had a headache.

More than once, during the ride home, Boyd felt Kitty’s inquisitive eyes upon him. “Why aren’t you singing with the rest of us?” she demanded at last.

“I’d rather listen.”

“You didn’t look as if you were doing even that,” Kitty remarked.

Alec glanced at his cousin; something had happened during that sitting out.

“Don’t let’s wait to talk,” Susy urged; “we’ll be home before we know it now. Mrs. Parker, mayn’t we go around the long way? It’s such a beautiful night.”

But Mrs. Parker vetoed this request; the short way ’round was fully long enough in her opinion.

Two or three days later, Blue Bonnet came in after school waving a letter. “I met the carrier! It’s from Uncle Cliff! He expects to get here by the twelfth. He will be here in two weeks! And then in ten days school will be out!” Blue Bonnet waltzed Solomon about the room excitedly.

399 There was a litter of sewing about the sitting-room; Blue Bonnet was to take her summer things back with her, and Grandmother insisted on having a share in the making of them. Being fitted by Grandmother was much pleasanter than being fitted by Mrs. Morrow, Blue Bonnet thought; she didn’t fill her mouth full of pins, and then sigh if one so much as stirred.

Not that there were no fittings to be gone through with at the old-fashioned house at the further end of the village; Mrs. Morrow was making the new white dress for “Closing Day” right now, and Blue Bonnet was due in her little trying-on room right now, too.

“To think that it’s only two weeks!” Blue Bonnet looked about the sitting-room a little soberly; would she be homesick for it after she got back to the ranch? The great living-room there was not much like this, certainly.

“Only a matter of weeks,” Aunt Lucinda said, dislodging Solomon from the piece of muslin, where he had suddenly elected to take a nap.

Blue Bonnet’s face sobered even more; if only they wouldn’t care so much. “Uncle Cliff thinks Chula had better go out to Darrel’s for the summer,” she went on. “And, oh, Grandmother! He’s going to give me a week in New York before we go West!”

“That will be fine!” Mrs. Clyde said, her400 thoughts going back to the Spring afternoon when the other Elizabeth had sat there on that same lounge telling of certain plans, a letter from Texas in her hand.

“I think, Blue Bonnet,” Aunt Lucinda suggested, “that Mrs. Morrow will be wondering where you are.”

“You’d think she give that up by now, wouldn’t you?” Blue Bonnet remarked. “But she always looks just as surprised as if it was the first time I’d kept her waiting. Come on, Solomon, you may go, too,—but you are not to chase the cat, remember.”

The “We are Seven’s” received the news of Mr. Ashe’s expected arrival with mingled pleasure and regret. “It isn’t that we mind his coming, if it didn’t mean your going,” Kitty explained, linking her arm through Blue Bonnet’s.

“I suppose,” Ruth said, “that if you asked him your prettiest, he would let you stay on through the summer.”

“That’s one of the things you’re not likely to find out,” Blue Bonnet laughed.

The seven were out in full force to welcome Mr. Ashe. “May I have her this time?” he asked Kitty.

“I reckon we’ll have to lend her to you—for the summer,” Kitty answered; “but you’ll have to promise first to get her back before school opens.”

401 “Woodford appears to agree with you, Honey,” Mr. Ashe said, as the club left them at the gate. He stood a moment before opening it. It was over five months since he had seen her. She had grown taller in the five months; taller, and a bit older. “I suppose one of these trips I shall come back and find you quite grown up,” he said.

Blue Bonnet’s laugh was reassuring. “Not as long as I can help it! Tell me about everything, Uncle Cliff! It doesn’t seem believable that in just a little while now I’ll be going back. They’ll be glad to see me, won’t they?”

“Uncle Joe intimated pretty plainly that if I came back without you this time he wouldn’t hold himself responsible for anything that might happen.”

“One thing, there won’t be anything changed!”

Uncle Cliff’s eyes twinkled.

“And please, Uncle Cliff, you’ll ask Grandmother the first thing? I want that settled. There she is in the garden; Aunt Lucinda’s out.”

“Haven’t you asked her, Honey?”

“I waited till you came; I didn’t want to give her too much time for thinking it over in.”

“It is really very good of you to be glad to see me,” Mr. Ashe said, as Grandmother came forward to meet him, “considering that this time I do not ‘go back alone.’”

“I have been telling myself that turn and turn402 about is only fair play,” Mrs. Clyde answered; “and that the fall is not so far off.”

“Please, Grandmother,” Blue Bonnet’s tone was most insinuating, “it won’t take you very long to get ready?”

“‘To get ready’?” Mrs. Clyde repeated.

“Why, to go with us. Uncle Cliff and I have been hoping and planning for that this ever so long; but I didn’t tell you before, because I didn’t want you to have time to think up objections in. There aren’t any really, you know.”

Grandmother sat down on one of the garden benches, looking from Blue Bonnet to Mr. Ashe in a surprise too great for words.

“It would be so lovely,” Blue Bonnet sat down beside her; “for us, I mean, and we would try to make it as pleasant as possible for you. You see, I never knew, until I came East, how much I needed a grandmother.”

“The need was mutual,” Grandmother said softly.

“And you could keep me from slipping back into the old spoilt ways; you could see that I did my mending and practising, and only took coffee at Sunday morning breakfast—”

Mrs. Clyde smiled. “At least, I should be on hand to bring you back with me in the fall;” and suddenly, Texas did not seem as far away as it had. Lucinda wanted to go abroad this summer—the403 only drawback had been leaving her mother alone. She would like to see the Blue Bonnet Ranch, where the other Elizabeth had been so happy during those few years of her married life. And it would mean too the not parting with Blue Bonnet for the summer.

“I will think it over,” she said.

“But that is just what I didn’t want you to do,” Blue Bonnet protested. “Please, couldn’t you promise first?”

“Couldn’t you?” Mr. Ashe said. “Blue Bonnet and I have certainly set our hearts on this; and I have a rooted objection to having our young lady disappointed—unnecessarily.”

“There comes Aunt Lucinda, I hear Solomon’s bark!” Blue Bonnet jumped up. “May I go and tell her it’s all settled, Grandmother?”

“You may go and tell her what it is we are trying to settle,” Mrs. Clyde laughed.

Miss Lucinda approved of the plan thoroughly. “I think it would be a delightful trip for you, Mother,” she said.

“And next year, maybe you won’t be wanting to go abroad, Aunt Lucinda,” Blue Bonnet said; “then you and Grandmother can both come out to the ranch.”

“Perhaps.” Miss Lucinda agreed.

After supper, Blue Bonnet and her uncle went for a ride. “Chula’ll miss me,” Blue Bonnet404 said, patting the glossy neck; “she’s the dearest horse.”

“And Firefly will be mighty glad to see you. Listen, Honey, I’ve been cogitating. Don’t you want to take one or two of those girls along with you for the summer? You must be sort of used to having girls to run with by now.”

“Uncle Cliff! Oh, I would love that!”

“Kitty, I suppose—who else?”

“Kitty would be most fun. And Sarah’s been—you don’t know how good Sarah Blake was to me a while back, Uncle Cliff!”

“How about telling me, Honey?”

Mr. Ashe listened to the rather sketchy story she told him, filling in the outlines from his knowledge of her. When she finished, he leaned nearer, laying a hand over hers. “Sarah’s going out to the ranch with us if I have to kidnap her.”

The thought of Sarah being kidnapped sent Blue Bonnet off into a fit of laughter. “But,” she said presently, “it wouldn’t do, really, to pick and choose like that. The others would feel ever so hurt. They’re ‘We are Seven’s’ too.”

“Then we’ll corral the whole bunch. There’s room enough for them on the ranch, and if there isn’t, the one adjoining is in the market.”

“I wish we could! They’ve all been so nice to me, and we’ve had such good times together. But I’m afraid it’s impossible.”

405 “I thought it was a copy-book maxim that nothing was impossible.”

“You haven’t lived ten months in Woodford, Uncle Cliff.”

“The first thing is—whether you really want them all to go?”

“Indeed I do!”

“Then the next thing to do is to see how your grandmother feels about it. It may strike her as a pretty big proposition.”

“Grandmother won’t mind—she likes young people about. And if she says yes, I suppose you will allow their fathers and mothers some voice in the matter?”

“As a matter of courtesy, it might be as well to,” Mr. Ashe laughed. “How about your neighbor; I thought it was settled that he was to have a taste of ranch life?”

“Alec! Oh, he would like that. It would do him a lot of good. His cousin is going abroad for the summer, to stay with his people.”

It was Aunt Lucinda who looked dubious when this latter plan was explained. “Wouldn’t it mean too much responsibility for you, Mother?” she asked.

“But please,” Blue Bonnet exclaimed, “we’d try not to trouble Grandmother one bit; she wouldn’t have to do anything for us; and we’d be as good as gold. Why, most of the time, she wouldn’t know we were on earth.”

406 “My dear—” Aunt Lucinda began.

“That would hardly be a very satisfactory state of mind to be in,” Mrs. Clyde said; she smiled down into Blue Bonnet’s eager face. “I should hate to be the one to deprive any of the young people of such a summer’s outing. And the fact that I am going may make it the easier for you to secure their parents’ consents.”

“Thank you so much!” Blue Bonnet said joyously; and Aunt Lucinda reflected that it was very improbable they would all be allowed to go.

“The first one who makes you a bit of trouble you send to me, ma’am,” Mr. Ashe said.

“They would hate that so!” Blue Bonnet laughed. “But none of us would dream of bothering Grandmother. And it’s all settled beautifully! We’ll look like a party of Raymond’s Tourists, won’t we? And now I can tackle those dreadful exams with a clear mind. They begin to-morrow.”

Blue Bonnet found Alec in his garden the next morning before breakfast. “Uncle Cliff’s coming over to see General Trent by and by,” she said. “Guess what for?”

Alec’s gray eyes lightened, as if before them he already saw the wide open sweep of the prairie. “Oh, I say!” he cried.

“Grandmother’s going!”


“And—Uncle Cliff says that it is only fair to407 prepare you—all the girls, if we can manage it.”

Alec stood the shock bravely. “It’ll prove an eye opener for Sarah.”

“It’ll be like having seven sisters, won’t it—for you?”

“I’ve always understood,” Alec laughed, “that the only boy in a large family of girls got a lot of waiting on and spoiling.”

“You think your grandfather will say yes?”

“I’m not much afraid of his saying no,” Alec answered.

The six girls were the next to be told. “This isn’t the official invitation,” Blue Bonnet explained, as they sat in a little group under a tree in the school yard—she had started for school good and early that morning; “Uncle Cliff and I are going visiting this afternoon, but I wanted you to be prepared—so you wouldn’t say no instead of yes when your mothers asked if you would like to go.”

The wonder of it was holding even Kitty speechless.

“If we could—” Ruth sighed at last.

“Do you want us to go—very, very much, Blue Bonnet?” Debby asked.

“I do.”

“Then,” Debby nodded confidently at the others, “it’s as good as settled. Blue Bonnet always gets what she wants—if she wants it hard enough.”

408 And, to everybody’s surprise except Blue Bonnet’s and her uncle’s, Debby’s word proved true. Fathers and mothers shook their heads doubtfully, uncles and aunts indulged in grave forebodings, big brothers and sisters offered advice, but after not too much delay all the invitations were accepted.

Sarah went about with a look of continual astonishment in her light blue eyes; to be going to Texas, to be breaking away from all the old routine of home duties and simple village amusements for a whole vacation—Sarah and her sense of duty underwent daily conflict.

“But your father and mother want you to go!” Blue Bonnet argued. “You’re bound to obey your parents, Sarah.”

“Sure!” Kitty added. “And don’t you worry, Sallykins, you’re bound to run across a few things now and then which only your strong sense of duty will enable you to go through with. Wait until you’re face to face with your first tamale.”

School was to close on the twenty-second. The following week, Mr. Ashe and Blue Bonnet were to spend in New York, giving the fellow travelers time to make their final preparations,—the whole party leaving Woodford for Texas on the first of July.

The ease and rapidity with which Mr. Ashe detailed these arrangements, took the six club members’ breaths away.

409 “We might be simply running in to Boston for a day’s shopping,” Susy commented.

“The more time the more worry,” Blue Bonnet said.

There were three all-engrossing topics of conversation during those days; the Texas trip, the hoped-for promotion, and the Sargent.

“Two of which you’ve a share in, and one of which you haven’t!” Kitty said to Blue Bonnet, now, after enumerating them.

“Did you know,” Debby asked, “that Boyd Trent had withdrawn his paper?”

“Withdrawn his paper!” five voices echoed excitedly. “Why didn’t you tell us before?”

“I was waiting for a clear field,” Debby laughed. “He told me so himself this morning.”

“But why?” Kitty asked.

“He didn’t tell me that.”

“Perhaps he thought it wasn’t good enough,” Ruth suggested.

“I’m sure I sometimes wish I could withdraw mine,” Amanda sighed.

“It wouldn’t have made any difference; he’d never have got a prize,” Kitty declared.

As she went on up the street after leaving the girls, Blue Bonnet told herself that she knew why Boyd had withdrawn his paper. Perhaps he had told Debby, knowing Debby would tell her among the others. She had scarcely seen him since the410 night of Amanda’s birthday; to all intents and purposes, he was devoting himself to baseball during most of his out-of-school time.

That relations continued strained between the two cousins it was easy to see; a mere outward semblance of friendliness being kept up on the General’s account.

“Solomon,” Blue Bonnet said, as he came to meet her, “should I have said what I did that night, or shouldn’t I? Maybe it was more or less of a rushing-in business? But it didn’t seem fair not to let him know why one couldn’t dance with him, or be friends. And it was true!”

Solomon appeared perfectly willing to take her word for it.

“What’s the trouble, Honey?” Uncle Cliff asked, as she came across the lawn to the bench where he sat, busy over some papers Uncle Joe had forwarded him.

“Just some school business,” she hadn’t any right to tell even such a close confidant as Uncle Cliff about it. “You don’t get much chance to lead the Simple Life going to school.”

“The twenty-second’s coming nearer every day, Honey.”

“At least, the exams will be over soon; the Sargent winners aren’t given out until the very last day, at closing exercises.”

411 “Why didn’t you try? Afraid of cutting out all the others?” Mr. Ashe laughed.

“I did think of it—then I changed my mind.”

She had fallen into their ways and customs pretty well, Mr. Ashe thought; she couldn’t have been expected to go in for them all.

Blue Bonnet broke off a spray of white roses, brushing them lightly across her face. She was sorry on Grandmother’s and Aunt Lucinda’s account; they were disappointed, though they had said nothing. She would like them to know the rights of it, and to be able to show Grandmother the little bundle of papers thrust into one of the pigeonholes of her desk.

“By the way,” her uncle asked, “how about the present financial condition?”

“I’m getting on,” Blue Bonnet laughed; “last month I actually saved a whole ten-cent piece. Aunt Lucinda thinks I’m almost ready for an advance. She’s giving me a camera as a reward of merit.”

Nor had the little brick house on the mantelpiece been neglected; its contents were to go to the Floating Hospital. She had not made that promised visit to Aunt Lucinda’s crippled girls—that was one of the things that must wait over until fall now; next year she meant not to have so many wait-overs.

412 “I had a wire this morning from Maldon,” Mr. Ashe said; “he places The Wanderer at our disposal for the trip West; she happens to be lying idle in Boston.”

“How perfectly lovely! I must go tell Grandmother; and now—” Blue Bonnet’s face was radiant, “now, Solomon needn’t travel in the baggage-car.”

“Maldon will be relieved when he learns that,” Mr. Ashe observed.

The six received this latest piece of news wide-eyed. “Travel all the way to Texas in a private car!” Amanda exclaimed.

“Blue Bonnet Ashe!” Kitty declared solemnly. “It was a lucky day for us when you came East!”

The Boston relatives arrived on the twenty-first for a short visit; Cousin Honoria and Cousin Augusta looked upon Cousin Elizabeth’s proposed Western trip in mingled amazement and dismay; a little kindly advice, a little gentle persuasion, were the least they could offer.

What would she do on a ranch—where there were cowboys and Mexicans and—Cousin Honoria glanced appealingly at her sister.

“Mustangs!” Cousin Augusta felt that she had added the final touch.

Blue Bonnet left the room with a haste that Grandmother could only envy. “But I do not intend413 to ride the mustangs,” she said; “and I have always wanted to see a real cowboy; and Benita is a Mexican. Elizabeth was very fond of Benita; so is Blue Bonnet.”

“I think Mother will enjoy her summer very much,” Miss Lucinda said, patting Solomon; Solomon had been more than ever attached to Miss Lucinda lately. Solomon couldn’t understand just what was about to happen, but he had an instinctive feeling that in an emergency Miss Lucinda was likely to prove a veritable tower of defence.

It was that afternoon that Blue Bonnet came home jubilant, as she had that Friday before Christmas. “I’ve passed!” she announced. “That’s twice running! Looks like I was getting the habit! And I needn’t have worked so hard, after all; it wasn’t such a close thing. Alec’s passed too,” she went on hurriedly, seeing reproof in her aunt’s eye; “and the girls—Amanda’s conditioned. She’ll have to study this summer. I did think there wouldn’t be a single school book along.”

“A little regular study on the part of each one of you girls every day—” Miss Lucinda began.

“But,” Blue Bonnet broke in, “nothing is too regular out there, not even the meals; that’s the delightful part of it.”

And Grandmother laughed at the sudden look in Cousin Honoria’s and Cousin Augusta’s eyes.

414 At last, the twenty-second really came; Blue Bonnet, standing before the glass, while Aunt Lucinda buttoned the long line of tiny buttons down the back of the new white gown, decided that going to school has its attractions, Closing Day being one of them. And later, sitting in her place in the big assembly-room, sharing the common thrill of eager excitement in the air, she was sure of it.

The graduation exercises were to take place that night. Blue Bonnet was not much interested in those; she was waiting for the great moment of the morning—the announcing of the names of the winners of the Sargent prizes.

It came at last, the tall boy who had taken her in to supper the night of her dance leading the list; Blue Bonnet thought his subject sounded very dull, like himself. If only Mr. Hunt would hurry along to Alec’s class! Would Alec—

“‘Remember the Alamo,’” Mr. Hunt read presently, “Alexander Morton Trent.”

It was General Trent who led the applause that time.

“Now our room!” Kitty whispered. “It’ll be Hester—for the girls!”

But it was not Hester.

“‘The Sargents of the Future,’” Mr. Hunt announced, “Katherine Benton Clark,” and no one was more surprised than Kitty herself.

“To think,” she whispered to Blue Bonnet, as415 she came back to her place, “to think how dreadfully near I came to not being allowed to try!”

After the general exercises were various gatherings in the different classrooms, congratulations to be made and received, good-byes to be said.

“And so,” Mr. Hunt said, meeting Blue Bonnet on the stairs, “you did not let your class go on without you?”

“Not either time,” she answered happily.

“I understand that you are off to Texas before long, taking a good portion of the school with you?”

“To make sure that they do not go on without me,” she laughed back. “Good-bye,” she added, holding out her hand, “and—thank you so much.” He had been mighty kind, she told herself,—what a perfectly delightful tutor he would have made!

It was towards late afternoon when she reached home, tired and happy. The General was there, looking very proud.

“For the second time,” he was saying, for rather more than the second time. “He really is a clever boy—they both are, for that matter; it seems that Boyd withdrew his paper almost at the last—for some reason or other I couldn’t quite make out—or we might have had a tie between them.” He turned to Blue Bonnet. “Alec tells me that it is really you, my dear, whom I have to416 thank—for supplying him with such an uncommonly good subject.”

Cousin Tracy looked interested. “So that’s what you did with it, Señorita?”

“I passed it on into the right hands, you see,” Blue Bonnet said, and presently she slipped away to her room.

The big trunk which Benita had packed with such loving care for the journey East stood open, and partly filled, and on the lounge lay her suit case ready for the morrow.

Blue Bonnet sat down near it, Solomon beside her, thinking of that last afternoon at home, and the hopes and fears filling her heart then; thinking of a good many other things besides.

It was going to be a different going back from the one she had so insisted on that November morning; very “decently and in order,” for—Blue Bonnet’s eyes danced—was not Aunt Lucinda superintending the packing?

How many things had happened in this room; she had had her good moments and her bad, but the former had predominated; and when next fall came it would be almost like coming home.

“And if I haven’t learned anything else, Solomon,” she observed, “I have learned to make a bed beautifully; Aunt Lucinda said as much this morning.”

“Will you be wanting any help, Miss?” Delia417 asked, from the open door, and Blue Bonnet relinquished most willingly the task of unbuttoning that long row of buttons.

“Katie and me ain’t liking to think of to-morrow,” Delia said. “’Tis the dull house this’ll be the summer long.”

“You’ll be dusting the parlor every Saturday morning now,” Blue Bonnet laughed; “not just when I’ve forgotten it.” It was awfully good of everybody to be nice about not wanting her to go.

She was sitting on the porch in the twilight, thinking contentedly of the long twilights to come on the ranch veranda, with Grandmother sitting close by, and all the “We are Seven’s” and Alec there, too, when Mrs. Clyde said slowly, “Blue Bonnet, why—when Cousin Tracy gave you such excellent material to work with—didn’t you try for the Sargent? Why, at one time, we thought you were going to,—your aunt and I.”

Blue Bonnet looked out across the shadowy lawn; she believed she would tell Grandmother; it should be their secret between them.

“I have got a reason, truly,” she said; “but it takes in such a number of other people. It began one afternoon when Boyd Trent met me out riding, and—”

“When in doubt, always confide in your grandmother,” Mrs. Clyde advised, as Blue Bonnet hesitated;418 “that’s one of the things grandmothers were made for.”

“All right,” Blue Bonnet answered.

“Please,” she asked, as she finished her story, “was it very dreadful—what I said to Boyd that night?”

“I think, taking everything into consideration, that it was very—pardonable,” Grandmother said.

“And you won’t mind, now that you know I really did mean to try? And Alec won a prize. I don’t believe I should have done that; and if I had, Kitty couldn’t’ve.”

“How should I mind, dear?—now that I understand your reason for not trying.”

Blue Bonnet drew a deep breath of relief. “Then I haven’t a single worry left on my mind. I didn’t like you and Aunt Lucinda thinking I was being—just horrid.”

“I am very glad you have told me this, Blue Bonnet. You must let me tell your aunt.”

From the stile came the sound of Alec’s whistling—“All the Blue Bonnets are over the border;” and from the open windows of Mr. Ashe’s room came the same tune, as he bent over the packing of his valise.

“They will be over pretty soon now,” Blue Bonnet laughed.

“Blue Bonnet,” Miss Clyde said from the doorway, “Cousin Honoria is hoping that you are not419 too tired to sing one of your Spanish songs for them?”

“Of course I’m not!” Blue Bonnet answered. “Grave or gay?” she asked, as Mr. Winthrop opened the piano for her.

“Both,” he replied.

She gave them both, choosing, in closing, the little song Benita had crooned over her work during those final days at home last year, with its soft Spanish words of farewell.

Cousin Honoria and Cousin Augusta suddenly found themselves envying Cousin Elizabeth. It was wonderful how a young person brightened up a house.

When she came back to the veranda, Blue Bonnet found a small detachment of the “We are Seven’s” there, with Alec and Grandmother.

“We only came to say,” Debby explained, “that we are so glad we haven’t got to say a really good-bye; and that we will be down at the station in the morning.”

“And mind,” Kitty pointed a warning forefinger, “mind you and Mr. Ashe don’t forget to come back for us!”

“As if—” Blue Bonnet laughed.

Just before going to bed, Blue Bonnet, in dressing gown and slippers, came to her aunt’s room.

Miss Clyde was sitting by one of the open windows,420 looking out at the soft, summer starlight, filled with the scent of the yellow and white honeysuckle covering the veranda below. She was thinking of the past ten months, wondering how deeply their teachings had taken root with Blue Bonnet.

“May I come in—for just a few moments?” Blue Bonnet asked. “I want to—talk;” and apparently forgetting that Miss Lucinda did not approve of her sitting on the floor, she dropped down beside her aunt’s chair, resting an arm on her lap, quite as though Aunt Lucinda were Grandmother. “I can talk so much better this way,” she said. “Please, Aunt Lucinda, I’m afraid I’ve been a lot of trouble to you—all these months. But it hasn’t had to be ‘Elizabeth!’ so very often lately, has it? You do think I’ve improved some?”

Miss Lucinda smiled. “I do not think that you have ever meant to be ‘a lot of trouble,’—the words are yours, not mine, my dear; and it has been a great comfort to both your grandmother and myself, having you with us.”

“And when I come back next fall, you’ll see—” Blue Bonnet said earnestly. “You’ve been ever so good to me, Aunt Lucinda—even if I didn’t—exactly think so—at the time. And I thought—maybe—we’d make this our real good-bye; because when Uncle Cliff and I get back from New York, it won’t be for much more than a stopping over.”

421 “But it is not to be good-bye,” Miss Lucinda laid a hand over Blue Bonnet’s—“only, until we meet again.”

“And,” Blue Bonnet added softly, as her aunt bent to kiss her, “‘Va Usted con Dios!’”


Blue Bonnet Series

Lela Horn Richards
Caroline E. Jacobs

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Selections from
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The eleven volumes boxed as a set $19.25















(Published with the approval of the “Boy Scouts of America”)

THE VAGABOND SCOUTS; Or The Adventures of Duncan Dunn.

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Cloth, 12mo, illustrated by Harold Cue, jacket in full color $1.75

“The pranks of the boys are amusing and exciting, but never without some useful purpose. Boys in their teens, and especially members of ‘Scout’ organizations, are bound to enjoy this book, and it is good reading for them in these times.”—Boston Post.


Each, 12mo, cloth decorative, illustrated $1.75


Illustrated by Charles E. Meister.

“This is one of the biggest, best and finest Boy Scout books yet published. Every red-blooded American boy who reads this book will give it his hearty endorsement and will be a finer boy for having read the story.”—Book News Monthly.


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Illustrated by Walter S. Rogers.

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Cloth decorative, 12mo, illustrated and with a poster jacket, by P. L. Martin $1.75

Transcriber’s Note:

Punctuation has been standardised. Changes to the original publication have been made as follows:

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